Sen. Peters: We must do more to tackle domestic extremism

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Posted at 9:22 PM, Jan 09, 2022

WASHINGTON D.C. — The U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee (HSGAC) may hold a hearing as soon as next month with “key officials” from leading social media companies to look into how their platforms could limit domestic extremists from getting their messages out and organizing, according to Chairman Sen. Gary Peters (D-Michigan).

Peters says more needs to be done to tackle the growing threat of domestic extremism, "There is no one easy solution to address this matter. But there are actions that we can take to protect our democracy and strengthen it for generations to come," Sen. Peters said in a speech on the Senate floor Thusrsday.

The senator spoke one-on-one with FOX 17's Aaron Parseghian just after the year anniversary of the Jan. 6 Capitol attack. As chair of the HSGAC, he led a bipartisan investigation into the security, planning and response failures that allowed the riot to escalate.

Last June, the committee published a report with recommendations for how law enforcement can be better prepared for an attack, including how they can better disseminate intel related to threats uncovered online.

“We put out 20 recommendations to strengthen the security of the Capitol, to date, 16 of those recommendations have either been adopted or are well along the way and we expect to have all those recommendations adopted,” Peters explained.

“The bottom line is the Capitol is much more secure today than it was a year ago,” he added.

January 6 aside, threats of political violence are on the rise here in the U.S., in part Peter says, because of the spread of misinformation and "lies about the 2020 election."

“There was recent testimony in Washington DC that the threats to individual members of Congress have gone up dramatically. We've also seen public opinion polls that show a large percentage of Americans think that violence is acceptable if you don't agree with someone politically, and that's simply unacceptable,” Peters said.

“In this democratic republic, we can certainly debate issues and we should do that vigorously. But we should never engage in violence, and violence so often occurs when you are perpetrating lies and misinformation and that has to stop.”

Domestic extremism in general is a growing concern nationally, “Both the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security say that the number one terrorist threat for us in the United States is…domestic terrorism, homegrown terrorism, and how these groups organized and how they mobilize and that's something that we are continuing to investigate,” Peters added.

The first place they are looking? The internet and social media platforms.

Peters says his committee will likely hold a hearing next month with key officials from leading social media companies, “to talk about how they can enhance their platforms in a way that can limit the ability for extremist groups to amplify their hateful messages, and also hopefully, bring an end to the ability for these groups to be able to organize in a way that brings violence to our streets.”

“One clear message we certainly got out of January 6. Was that dangerous rhetoric on the internet can easily translate to actual violence on the streets, and it's something we need to be looking at,” he added.