Homeland Security warns of potential violence fueled by conspiracy theory in August

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A large group of rioters stand on the eastern steps of the Capitol after storming its grounds January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC.



CNN

The Department of Homeland Security on Friday warned state and local authorities against an increase in calls for online violence linked to election-related conspiracy theories, according to a police source.

In an effort to prevent online threats from manifesting into acts of violence, DHS has issued a public safety notice to reach law enforcement across the United States.

“[D]HS is raising awareness of reports of a growing but modest level of online activity calling for violence in response to unsubstantiated allegations of fraud related to the 2020 election and the alleged ‘reinstatement’ of former President Trump, ”said public safety notification, depending on the source.

The notification was first reported by ABC News.

The warning, which contains no specific threat, comes amid a resurgence of false allegations about the 2020 election, pushed in part by Mike Lindell, CEO of MyPillow and close ally of former President Donald Trump, who has become one of the most vocal supporters of these conspiracy theories.

“As the public visibility of the stories increases, we are concerned about more and more calls for violence. Reports indicate that the timing of these assets may be August 2021, although we lack information on specific plots or planned actions, ”the notification said, according to the source.

For weeks, the federal government has been aware of online reintegration-focused narratives, especially on platforms associated with promoting conspiracy theories, like QAnon, and forums where extremists tend to engage, has said the source.

While “modest,” there is concern that these conspiracy theories are “woven into calls for violence,” the source added, stressing the need for greater awareness of the issue in the United States.

In the current threat environment, DHS is particularly concerned that isolated offenders and small groups of individuals could potentially view these accounts as a justification for acting violently, according to the source.

Some of the rhetoric online refers directly to January 6. There are also calls for violence in Washington, DC and state capitals across the country, the source said.

In addition to the bogus claims backed by Lindell, another conspiracy theory concerns the upcoming FEMA test of the national emergency alert system, according to the source, with some seeing it as a so-called “go code.”

The notification is based on “the Department’s assessment of the current threat environment in its similarity to situations in 2020 and 2021 which manifested themselves in acts of violence and destructive behavior of individuals and groups, including including the violation of the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021, “according to the source.

The release of the notification will be followed by additional meetings between the FBI, DHS, and state and local law enforcement to assess the threat and determine if more is needed to mitigate the risk, the source said.


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