Hey, Internet companies: Pay attention to the FBI’s conspiracy theories bulletin
Conspiracy theories have been radicalizing believers across the country, and finally, the FBI is connecting the dots between conspiracy theorists and real-world violence. According to a new report from Yahoo! News, the FBI has published a document warning that conspiracy theories constitute a domestic terrorism threat.
“The FBI assesses these conspiracy theories very likely will emerge, spread, and evolve in the modern information marketplace, occasionally driving both groups and individual extremists to carry out criminal or violent acts,” the document states.
But whether internet companies will take the FBI bulletin to heart and expand their terms of service in response remains to be seen.
“The advent of the Internet and social media has enabled promoters of conspiracy theories to produce and share greater volumes of material via online platforms that larger audiences of consumers can quickly and easily access,” the document reads.
The internet’s role in spreading conspiracy theories is where things get tricky, for both the FBI and social media companies themselves. None of them police ideologies. Social media companies allow people to talk about whatever they want — inclusive of conspiracy theories — as long as they’re not inciting violence or breaking the companies’ terms of service in other ways, like through hate speech.
Now, these companies might want to reassess that stance to include the sorts of conspiracy theories that could lead to violence.
“Most people accept that hate propaganda can lead to violence, but it’s also true that there is a connection between conspiracy theories and violence,” Heidi Beirich, the direc