ICYMI: Peters Investigative Report Shows DHS and FBI Are Not Adequately Addressing Domestic Terrorism Threat

Investigation Also Found That Social Media Companies’ Current Business Models Contribute to Spread of Extremist Content

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, released a new report detailing the results of his investigation into the rise of domestic terrorism, including white supremacist and anti-government violence. The report found that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have failed to effectively track and report data on the domestic terrorism threat despite being required to do so by a 2019 law spearheaded by Peters. The investigation also found that while independent experts and national security officials call white supremacist and anti-government violence the most significant terrorist threat facing our nation today, this lack of data has limited Congress’ ability to determine whether counterterrorism agencies are allocating resources to effectively address the growing threat posed by domestic terrorism. The investigation also found that social media companies’ current business models are designed to prioritize engagement and profits and – as a result – platforms end up amplifying dangerous and radicalizing extremist content, including white supremacist and anti-government content.

Yahoo News: New Senate report finds FBI, DHS failing to address threat of domestic terrorism

“More than two decades after 9/11, the federal government is struggling to address the most significant terrorist threat currently facing the nation. That is the crux of a new report released Wednesday by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s Democratic majority.”

“‘Certainly, I’m concerned that their inability to provide this information basically indicates that the FBI and DHS have not been effectively tracking incidents as a result,’ Peters said. ‘If they’re not tracking it, they’re not prioritizing our counterterrorism resources to effectively tackle this threat.’”

“The Senate committee’s investigation also examined the role of social media — specifically, Meta, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube — in accelerating the threat of domestic terrorism and concluded that ‘terrorist and extremist content permeates social media platforms in part because these platforms’ business models are designed to maximize user engagement, which has the effect of promoting increasingly extreme content.’”

NBC News: FBI, DHS and social media firms like Meta, TikTok aren’t adequately addressing threat of domestic extremists, Senate report says

“An investigation by the Senate Homeland Security Committee alleges that the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and leading social media companies are not adequately addressing the growing threat of domestic terrorism, especially white supremacist and anti-government extremists.”

“Peters added in a phone call with reporters: ‘The FBI and DHS must do a better job’ monitoring threat information on social media. Before the Jan. 6 attack, he said, ‘There was a lot of open-source material that was out there indicating that people were planning to come to the Capitol and engage in violent acts. … These agencies have to be quicker on their feet.’”

“The investigation also found that social media companies ‘have failed to meaningfully address the growing presence of extremism on their platforms’ and that the business models of four leading social media outlets — Meta, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube — are based on maximizing user engagement, growth, and profits, which incentivizes increasingly extreme content.”

Associated Press: Feds, tech fall short on watching extremists, Senate says

“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 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.”

“‘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.

ABC News: Social media companies prioritizing profit over harmful content: Senate report

“U.S. social media companies are prioritizing making a profit over taking down harmful rhetoric that leads to violent extremists perpetuating the ideology, according to a Senate Homeland Security Committee report released on Wednesday.”

“[Peters] said social media companies have gotten better about taking the harmful content down. ‘The problem with that is that once the content is out, particularly if it’s particularly provocative, it can spread very quickly,” he said. ‘Once the genies out of the bottle sometimes you can’t put it back in.’”

“‘Domestic terrorism, and in particular white supremacist and anti-government extremists, continues to pose a persistent and lethal threat to homeland security,’ the report said. ‘This investigation found that the federal government – specifically DHS and FBI – is not adequately addressing this growing threat.’”