SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) – A week after the siege of the U.S. Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump and days before President-elect Joe Biden was sworn in, the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office launched a task force newly formed to “fight right wing terrorists”
The team, made up of three assistants and a Special Operations Division sergeant at the Sheriff’s Headquarters, will pursue leads and follow public advice, which involves threats of violence against public officials or government facilities.
“We’re focusing on the right-wing extremists, the terrorists, the same type of people who acted in Washington, DC,” Sheriff Laurie Smith said Wednesday.
The team will work in conjunction with the FBI and the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center. The four-member working group will expand as needed to respond to information from the public. Currently, there have been no specific threats in the South Bay, but there has been chatter that reflects much of the fiery rhetoric following the Capitol Riots.
“We have heard that there will be demonstrations scheduled for the 17th. We are certainly concerned about the inaugural day. But we’re going to be following some of the more secretive planned protests or actions, ”Smith said. “We all hear about some kind of war that people espouse. So we’re going to look at all of this, those who really want to be aggressive in opposing the change in leadership.
Since Facebook, Twitter and YouTube cracked down on right-wing extremist activity, purged users have sought new digital homes.
According to Apptopia, from January 5-10, there was a surge in downloads of encrypted apps and social media with minimal monitoring of posted content. Signal saw a 677% increase in app downloads, CloutHub 472%, MeWe 244%, Telegram 146% and Rumble 144%.
Years of public outcry and pressure on mainstream tech titans to do more to control their platforms are unlikely to end, after the exodus to the darker corners of the web. New alternative platforms will likely come under the same pressures to remove extremist content.
“They have the technical tools to do it, it’s not impossible,” said Ahmed Banafa, cybersecurity expert and professor at San Jose State University. “It is your responsibility as a business, your social responsibility to protect everyone who uses the platform. And you don’t want regulations knocking on your door.
KPIX 5 security analyst Jeff Harp said federal agencies would likely revert to proven methods of information gathering now that the social media landscape has been disrupted.
“So now they’re going to have to rely on good old fashioned investigative techniques, talk to human beings, try to find people who cooperate with the FBI, and purge that advice a lot more closely,” Harp said. “They will go to the old school.”
To report tips and suspicious activity to the task force, call the anonymous hotline at (408) 808-4431 or the public line operator at (408) 808-4400. Advice can also be submitted online at http://www.fbi.gov/tips or by email at [email protected]