As social media companies mount an unprecedented crackdown in the wake of last week’s attack on the U.S. Capitol — deleting the accounts and posts of users they say are pushing rhetoric that could drive individuals to violence — a Department of Homeland Security official has told ABC News there is new concern that such dramatic action could hurt efforts to gather intelligence on certain extremist groups.
“The pro, obviously is, you’re removing that content from that and that ability for people to coordinate on these public platforms like Parler or Twitter or Facebook,” a DHS official who requested anonymity, said. “But the con is that you’re driving those folks that are intent on committing violence into more encrypted channels which limit the government’s ability to track those.”
This official added that just because accounts are taken down from a platform doesn’t mean people will stop communicating and coordinating their efforts.
In some cases, law enforcement officials have already social media posts against those who allegedly took place in last Wednesday’s assault.
“They’re just going to do it in a way where we have less visibility. And certainly, I think from our perspective that just and we’re already dealing with a needle in a haystack,” this official said, adding that when folks switch to an encrypted channel they lose visibility on them.
State homeland security officials echo the concern that the reduction in the social media presence for some radical elements may make them more difficult to track.
This official also said that it “wouldn’t be surprising” to see attacks directed at places that aren’t state capitals, adding that they see this threat lasting beyond the issues driving the current threats.
ABC News’ Jack Date contributed to this report.
DHS official warns taking down social media accounts could hurt intel gathering The British Journal Editors and Wire Services/ ABC News.