Washington Post - Michigan Kidnapping Plot Foreshadowed on Social Media

Alethea Group and the Global Disinformation Index identified 25 militia groups in Michigan, including several that operate well-organized bureaucracies with leadership hierarchies, local chapters, and fitness and training activities.


An examination by Alethea Group and the Global Disinformation Index, which also tracks online threats, suggests social media has been instrumental in the escalating actions by Michigan militias, first over pandemic-related restrictions imposed by Whitmer and now in the run-up to the November election, despite recent efforts by Facebook and other platforms to curtail violent activity.


The groups, while now mostly knocked off Facebook, used the platform for years to build their membership, exchange information, host events and coordinate training. In the spring, they proved themselves capable of disrupting democracy, fomenting armed standoffs at the Capitol that caused the state to cancel a legislative session.


“Social media companies have been allowing these communities to build and grow, ignoring the mounting evidence that memes, posts and images encouraging violence can and do translate into actual violence,” said Cindy Otis, a former CIA analyst and vice president of analysis for the Alethea Group, which tracks online threats and discovered the Wolverines page. “Not only have many of these Michigan pages and groups been on Facebook for years, the Facebook algorithm actively recommended other militia-related groups and pages to join, allowing each page and group to expand their reach. ”


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