Selfie-Snapping Rioters Leave FBI a Trail of Over 140,000 Images, Internet sleuthing explodes, raising concerns
Todd Shields, Kartikay Mehrotra, Naomi Nix, and Jennifer A Dlouhy report:
The FBI arrested one man after a co-worker at a western Maryland restaurant reported seeing him in images of people assaulting the U.S. Capitol. A Texas man was charged after his ex-wife recognized him in a social-media video and called authorities, noting that it was a good picture.
Perhaps the most easily recognized interloper wore the same bearskin headdress with horns, and carried the same six-foot spear, as he did on his Facebook page. Prosecutors called it “distinctive attire” in charging documents.
These and more details gleaned from court documents reveal how the FBI has quickly identified more than 275 suspects — the number is expected to grow quickly — related to last week’s Capitol riot. More than 98 have been arrested, often with the aid of video taken or social media posted by the participants themselves. And investigators, academics and citizen sleuths are still combing though broadcast footage and websites such as Twitter Inc., YouTube and even archives of the now-defunct Parler platform favored by right-wing activists.
Read more on Bloomberg.
That people proudly provided law enforcement with abundant evidence against themselves is somewhat mind-boggling, until you factor in that an unknown percentage of those people did not think they were doing anything illegal because their President asked them to do what they were doing. I realize it’s contentious to say that, and some believe firmly that Trump, Cruz, Hawley, and others did not give them a sense of permission or expectation that their actions were patriotic and would be forgiven, but I think the abundant video footage shows that some people felt they were absolutely doing A Good Thing and a Lawful Thing.
Their beliefs or ignorance of law notwithstanding, it’s also instructive to look at how information is being used, and how the public understands technology. When Nick Fuentes later told people “if you were there, destroy your cell phones,” many of us were reminded of the “This is not how this works. This is not how any of this works” meme. But how many people share his ignorance about what information protesters were storing about themselves and how the government can access it even if people subsequently threw out their phones or sim cards. Even if they hadn’t taken selfies.
Public ignorance about tech aside, there is also the growing debate about sleuthing and doxxing on the internet. While some sleuthing has resulted in the identification of some people seen in video footage, and some kids and relatives are just turning in their family members, internet sleuths run a risk of naming and defaming the wrong person. There are also risks that people may come after you if you identify them and point law enforcement at them. Read Doxxing insurrectionists: Capitol riot divides online extremism researchers for some thought-provoking comments on the issue. One of the points the article raises that bears emphasis is that not everyone was engaging in illegal conduct. Those who stayed outside the Capitol and just milled around chanting, “Stop the Steal!” were likely not breaking any laws at all. Identifying and naming them publicly as if they were all insurrectionists or criminals is unfair — and dangerous to a society that believes in protected speech.
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