A Review of the Federal Response to Domestic Terrorism and Extremism on Social Media

Person scrolling through social media on smartphone

The U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee recently released The Rising Threat of Domestic Terrorism: A Review of the Federal Response to Domestic Terrorism and the Spread of Extremist Content on Social Media, a report based on three years of investigation by the Majority Committee staff for U.S. Senator Gary Peters into domestic terrorism and the federal response. 

After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the federal government focused primarily on the threat of international terrorism. However, since this shift in focus more than twenty years ago, domestic terrorist attacks in the U.S. have drastically increased. The expansion of social media has played a large role, leading to the recruitment, dissemination, and coordination of domestic terrorists and extremists. The report examines four major social media companies: Meta (formerly known as Facebook), TikTok, Twitter, and YouTube. Although these social media companies have made an effort to remove violative content, their focus has been predominately on growth and user engagement. The investigation finds that the federal government, specifically the FBI and DHS, have not adequately tracked and reported data on domestic terrorism incidents, given the vast amount of pervasive content that companies have had to remove. Furthermore, the FBI and DHS have not clarified their classifications and definitions to make their investigations consistent in combating this growing threat.

The Committee will continue to examine the changing federal response, as well as the actions taken by social media companies to address the spread of domestic terrorism and extremist content on their platforms.

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