A number of Americans, according to recent surveys, have grown frustrated with the restrictions on their freedoms and have begun registering those frustrations by calling for a relaxation of the lockdown orders and a reopening of society. 

Within the ranks of those discontented, certain extremist subgroups have been coalescing demonstrably over social media into a “Militia-sphere" - in which the pandemic is dismissed as a political excuse or hoax to enable governments to curtail individual freedoms, and in which law enforcement officers and other government officials are portrayed as the willing instruments of this oppression, notes a new report presented by the Rutgers Miller Center for Community Protection and Resilience and by the Network Contagion Research Institute. 

The report, COVID-19, Conspiracy and Contagious Sedition: A Case Study on the Militia-Sphere, notes the Militia-sphere’s messaging has grown increasingly extreme as the pandemic has progressed, to the point of threatening and enacting violent attacks. 

The report details the rise of a militant network as it unites those with shared attitudes toward the legitimacy of the pandemic, lockdown orders and the role of law enforcement and other government officials. 

According to the report, "it demonstrates the rising intensity of the messaging associated with the various subgroups, the expanding platform for such messaging as it has spread from fringe web platforms to mainstream sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit, and the deliberate efforts of the Militia-sphere’s exponents to hijack the national conversation about the pandemic and about when and how the state by state lockdown orders should be relaxed."

Similarly, Paul Goldenberg, a highly decorated law enforcement and national security professional, who is also a Senior Fellow with the Rutgers University Miller Center for Community Protection and Resilience, recently noted in an article: “As wonderful and as useful as the Internet is, it has become a ‘breeding ground’ for those who are seeking to further their messages of hatred, bigotry and violence. Many of the recent mass shootings in the U.S. took place in mosques, synagogues and churches. All of the perpetrators involved in these mass shootings clearly shared their manifestos and their intentions on websites such as The Daily Stormer, Stormfront and 4chan. Even more concerning, during the actual massacres, they videotaped or livestreamed their actions to further leverage the web to reach a wider audience.” (To read more about how radical groups are levering the web to recruit, and the threats and challenges these groups present to enterprise security, visit https://www.securitymagazine.com/articles/92517-the-rise-of-extremism)

In addition, the report details how the "largest online conspiracy group in the U.S., QAnon, militarizes in the face of these events to draw massive populist support to portray increasingly seditious and apocalyptic confrontations against the lockdown, government, and a nefarious elite."

To read the entire report, please visit https://ncri.io/reports/covid-19-conspiracy-and-contagious-sedition-a-case-study-on-the-militia-sphere/