Jan 6, 2022 - Politics & Policy

DHS warns cops about extremist online content on Jan. 6 anniversary

U.S. Capitol Police patrol on the first anniversary of the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

U.S. Capitol Police patrol on the anniversary of the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Photo: Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A top Homeland Security official warned law enforcement authorities across the U.S. on Thursday of concerning online activity encouraging violence on the anniversary of Jan. 6, but said there was no indication of any specific or credible plot. 

Why it matters: The message, obtained by Axios, provides insight into how federal law enforcement agencies are working to detect real-life threats from extremism online — one year after the attack on the U.S. Capitol building.

Between the lines: The memo was sent on behalf of John Cohen, the acting undersecretary for intelligence and analysis at DHS. It highlights an increase in concerning online activity over the past two days.

  • "While we still have no indication of a specific and credible plot, DHS and FBI have identified new content online that could inspire violence, particularly by lone offenders, and could be directed against political and other government officials," it says.

The memo cites two examples:

  • A video was posted on a forum this week, which calls for a list of 93 members of Congress to be hung outside the White House. The video claims they were involved in certifying the "fraudulent" 2020 election results. It has more than 60,000 views across platforms.
  • Another online post encourages assassinations of Democratic leaders, including President Biden, on Jan. 6 — also citing baseless claims of election fraud.
  • The Secret Service, Capitol Police and the DC police "are aware of this online activity, and investigations have been initiated, as appropriate," according to the memo. "In light of this reporting, the Federal Protective Service has also expanded patrols in and around federal facilities across the country."

The big picture: Conspiracy theories about the U.S. Capitol insurrection continue to flood private messaging groups, social networks and news outlets, as Axios has reported.

  • DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told reporters on Tuesday they are seeing a greater connection between misinformation on social media and domestic violent extremism threats.
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