The Justice Department is studying social media use of "far-right" and Islamic groups in an effort to counter violent extremism.
Michigan State University was given $585,719 by the Justice Department's National Institute of Justice (NIJ) for the study in fiscal year 2014, The Washington Free Beacon
"There is currently limited knowledge of the role of technology and computer mediated communications (CMCs), such as Facebook and Twitter, in the dissemination of messages that promote extremist agendas and radicalize individuals to violence," according to a description of the project
"The proposed study will address this gap through a series of qualitative and quantitative analyses of posts from various forms of CMC used by members of both the far-right and Islamic extremist movements," NIJ said.
The institute will look at more social media forums used by those in the far-right than those used by Islamic extremists.
"We will collect posts made in four active forums used by members of the far-right and three from the Islamic Extremist community, as well as posts made in Facebook, LiveJournal, Twitter, YouTube, and Pastebin accounts used by members of each movement," it said.
The NIJ said "the findings will be used to document both the prevalence and variation in the ideological content of posts from members of each movement."
"In addition, we will assess the value of these messages in the social status of the individual posting the message, and the function of radical messages in the larger on-line identity of participants in extremist communities generally," the Justice Department said.
After all the data is analyzed, it will be disseminated to the public through a "webinar" as well as be "developed into presentations to practitioner audiences at conferences across the U.S."
The grant does not name which "far-right" groups might be targeted in the study, but the sovereign citizen movement has attracted the attention of other federal agencies, The Free Beacon reported.
Former Attorney General Eric Holder talked about this project,
as well as 18 others, when he spoke before the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism in February. He said at the time that the projects will "study the role that online social media plays in radicalization, and will help us develop more effective techniques and partnerships for counter-messaging."
President Barack Obama was widely criticized following that summit for refusing to acknowledge radical Islam as a source
of the majority of the violent extremism that exists in the world today.
The Obama administration was also widely criticized in 2009, after the Department of Homeland Security issued a report on "right-wing extremism"
sent to law enforcement agencies around the country. It said that "rightwing extremists are antagonistic toward the new presidential administration and its perceived stance on a range of issues, including immigration and citizenship, the expansion of social programs to minorities, and restrictions on firearms."
The DHS report went onto say that "extremists appeared to be in the early planning stages of some threatening activity targeting the Democratic nominee, but law enforcement interceded."
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