Foreign Involvement in American Domestic Terrorism and the Spread of Misinformation
Grace Cassineri | Nov 7, 2022
American domestic terrorism is generally associated with violent, far right extremism, especially following the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol. With domestic terrorism cases on the rise, a deeper examination of the sources of domestic terrorist ideologies and contributing factors reveals a tie between American violent right-wing extremist groups and foreign countries, specifically Russia. Russia has been cited for spreading misinformation, disinformation and malinformation, and provoking tensions between various groups in the United States, largely via social media platforms.
American white supremacist leaders, such as David Duke, have cited Russia as being the key to “white survival” (HIR). Additionally, American white supremacist leaders such as Jared Taylor and Matthew Heimbach have met with Russian political leaders prior to planning terrorist attacks (Just Security). The Russian Imperial Movement (RIM) publicly declares that one of their goals is to unite radical right-wing white supremacist organizations and movements across the world, and RIM is known to work closely with Rodina, the far right-wing political party in Russia (Rodina). Russia’s role in inspiring and nurturing radical ideologies is crucial, and must be treated as so in the fight against American domestic terrorism.
These Russian groups and organizations specifically work to sow distrust and misinformation in media, and social media platform algorithms that are prone to create echo chambers lead to consumers becoming malinformed and potentially prone to radicalization. Algorithms are meant to show consumers what is ‘relevant’ to them, meaning that posts will likely be those that the consumer already agrees with. Russia specifically used these tactics during the U.S. 2016 Presidential election, in which they utilized “disinformation chains” to spread disinformation from Russian leadership to social media platforms, and then finally American voters and consumers (RAND). This Russian Influence Campaign was ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin (RAND). The Russian government plays a direct role in the spread of misinformation in the United States.
In order to combat this, a multi-faceted approach is needed (RAND). Ideas include an information exchange between the U.S. Government and various social media platforms, and increasing the transparency of social media platforms and algorithms (RAND). Another recommendation is to outline clear rules and regulations for social media platforms, in order to better control the spread of misinformation (RAND). In order to specifically target the Russian State, the United States should consider using defensive tactics, rather than punishments, in order to better guide Moscow’s decisions regarding misinformation (RAND). Since both the Russian and American states, alongside private organizations, are actors in this conflict, it is necessary to have defense measures put in place to ensure the safety of the American people, and the longevity of American democracy.