Feds, tech fall short on watching extremists, Senate says

Nov 16, 2022, 1:00 PM | Updated: Nov 21, 2022, 3:15 pm
FILE - The Department of Homeland Security logo is seen during a news conference in Washington, Feb...

FILE - The Department of Homeland Security logo is seen during a news conference in Washington, Feb. 25, 2015. A new Senate report is criticizing the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security for not doing enough to track domestic extremists. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are failing to adequately monitor domestic extremists, according to a new Senate report that also faulted social media platforms for encouraging the spread of violent and antigovernment content.

The report, issued Wednesday by the Senate Homeland Security panel, called on federal law enforcement to reassess its overall response to the threat of homegrown terrorism and extremism.

The report recommends creating new definitions for extremism that are shared between agencies, improved reporting on crimes linked to white supremacy and antigovernment groups, and better use of social media in an effort to prevent violence, said Sen. Gary Peters, the Michigan Democrat who chairs the committee.

Growing domestic extremism has been linked to the country’s widening political divide and a rise in distrust of institutions. Critics of social media’s role in radicalizing extremists say that misinformation and hate speech spread online is fueling the problem, and in some cases encouraging acts of real-world violence like the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Participants in that effort to illegally stop the certification of the presidential election openly discussed online their plans to come to Washington for weeks ahead of time, with some discussing the possibility of using force, Peters noted.

“Folks who were looking at what was happening on social media should have known that something very bad could potentially go down on Jan. 6 here at the Capitol,” Peters said Wednesday on a conference call with reporters.

The FBI emailed a statement to The Associated Press defending its handling of domestic terrorism in response to the report. The agency has provided comprehensive reports to Congress on the threat of domestic extremism motivated by racism or antigovernment views and tracks it carefully, the agency said.

“They are among the FBI’s top threat priorities,” the agency said.

A DHS spokesperson responded similarly Wednesday, saying the agency uses a “community-based approach to prevent terrorism and targeted violence, and does so in ways that protect privacy, civil rights and civil liberties.”

The leaders of both agencies are scheduled to testify before Peters’ committee on Thursday, part of its annual hearing on domestic threats.

Both agencies have previously defended their work to combat domestic terrorism, as FBI Director Christopher Wray did last year when he told Congress that violent extremists pose a mounting threat.

Efforts by federal law enforcement to use social media to track domestic extremism have prompted questions about civil liberties and the targeting of communities of color. Republicans have accused tech platforms, meanwhile, of using content moderation to censor conservative opinions.

Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and YouTube were all singled out in the report for encouraging harmful content by using algorithms designed to increase user engagement. Those algorithms often prioritize clicks over quality, potentially sending users down a rabbit hole of increasingly provocative material.

The report noted that tech companies often use content moderation tools to remove or flag extremist content after it’s already spread. They should change their algorithms and products to ensure they aren’t encouraging the content in the first place, the report recommended.

“The rise in domestic terrorism can be partially attributed to the proliferation of extremist content on social media platforms and the failure of companies to effectively limit it in favor of action that increase engagement on their platforms,” the report concluded.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Facebook's Meta logo sign is seen at the company headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., on, Oct...
Associated Press

Meta oversight board urges changes to VIP moderation system

LONDON (AP) — Facebook parent Meta’s quasi-independent oversight board said Tuesday that an internal system that exempted high-profile users, including former U.S. President Donald Trump, from some or all of its content moderation rules needs a major overhaul. The report by the Oversight Board, which was more than a year in the making, said the […]
7 hours ago
Associated Press

Pope tightens oversight of Vatican-linked foundations

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis on Tuesday tightened control and oversight over Vatican-based foundations and associations in his latest effort to impose international standards of accounting and governance on Vatican offices and affiliated entities. A new law aims to bring the Holy See into further compliance with recommendations from the Council of Europe’s Moneyval […]
7 hours ago
FILE -  Kirstie Alley attends the premiere of HBO's "Girls" on Jan. 5, 2015, in New York.  Alley, a...
Associated Press

Kirstie Alley, Emmy-winning ‘Cheers’ star, dies at 71

Kirstie Alley, a two-time Emmy winner whose roles on the TV megahit "Cheers" and in the "Look Who's Talking" films made her one of the biggest stars in American comedy in the late 1980s and early 1990s, died Monday. She was 71.
7 hours ago
FILE - A student visits a sensory room at Williams Elementary School, on Nov. 3, 2021, in Topeka, K...
Associated Press

Many kids are struggling. Is special education the answer?

The COVID-19 pandemic sent Heidi Whitney’s daughter into a tailspin. Suddenly the San Diego middle schooler was sleeping all day and awake all night. When in-person classes resumed, she was so anxious at times that she begged to come home early, telling the nurse her stomach hurt. Whitney tried to keep her daughter in class. […]
7 hours ago
Associated Press

Millennial Money: How credit can beat buy now, pay later

At first glance, a “buy now, pay later” plan’s promise of no interest or upfront fees can seem more appealing than a credit card’s terms. Dividing a transaction into, say, a pay-in-four installment plan sounds straightforward and manageable. Unlike credit cards, though, these plans lack certain consumer protections and are sometimes unpredictable. In this way, […]
7 hours ago
FILE - Then Economic revitalization minister, Yasutoshi Nishimura speaks during a press conference ...
Associated Press

Japan, Belgium to cooperate in chip production, development

TOKYO (AP) — A newly founded Japanese semiconductor company aiming to revive Japan’s chip industry will collaborate with a Belgian research organization in research and development of next-generation chips for production in Japan. Economy and Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told reporters Tuesday that the new company, Rapidus, which was launched last month by eight corporate […]
7 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
...
Quantum Fiber

Stream 4K and more with powerful, high-speed fiber internet

Picking which streaming services to subscribe to are difficult choices, and there is no room for internet that cannot handle increased demands.
...
SCHWARTZ LASER EYE CENTER

Key dates for Arizona sports fans to look forward to this fall

Fall brings new beginnings in different ways for Arizona’s professional sports teams like the Cardinals and Coyotes.
Feds, tech fall short on watching extremists, Senate says