The Capitol Riots, QAnon, and the Internet

Technology as an enabler for extremism: What role did QAnon and the internet play in the US Capitol riot?
Thu, 21 January, 2021 5:00pm

Recent events such as the attack on the US Capitol and armed protests planned around the US indicate that threats to US democracy continue to grow in the wake of the US election. Professor Chris Kojm, Dr. Rollie Lal, Dr. Rebekah Tromble, Director Institute for Data, Democracy & Politics, and Seamus Hughes, Deputy Director for the GW Program on Extremism discussed how extremist ideas have spread through society, how technology is an enabler for extremist groups such as QAnon and the Capitol rioters, as well as the international implications. The panelists also delved into what the government and private sector can do to counter the threat.

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Seamus Hughes is the Deputy Director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University. He is an expert on terrorism, homegrown violent extremism, and countering violent extremism (CVE). Hughes has authored numerous reports for the Program including ‘ISIS in America: From Retweets to Raqqa’ and ‘The Travelers: American Jihadists in Syria and Iraq.’ He regularly provides commentary to media outlets, including the New York Times, The Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal. He has testified before the U.S. Congress on multiple occasions.

Christopher A. Kojm serves as the Director of the Elliott School's Leadership, Ethics and Practice Initiative. He re-joined the School as a Professor of Practice in International Affairs after serving as Chairman of the National Intelligence Council from 2009 to 2014. U.S. He has expertise in the areas of foreign policy and national security policy; extensive career experience in the legislative and executive branches, and in the intelligence community. He currently serves on the Biden Transition Team on Intelligence, which will review all 17 intelligence organizations including the Central Intelligence Agency, the FBI and Department of State.

Rollie Lal is is an Associate Professor at the Elliott School of International Affairs where she teaches graduate courses on Transnational Security, Foreign Policy, and International Political Economy. She also is co-chair of the Religion and International Affairs Working Group. Her research focuses on organized crime, terrorism, religious extremism, human rights, China, South Asia, and other areas.  

Rebekah Tromble is Director of the Institute for Data, Democracy & Politics and Associate Professor in the School of Media & Public Affairs at George Washington University. Her research focuses on political communication, digital research methodology, and research ethics, with particular interests in political discourse on social media, as well as the impacts of exposure to online disinformation and abusive content. Dr. Tromble is currently leading a team of international researchers from both the social and computer sciences to investigate the “health” of political conversations on Twitter. She is also a member of the European Digital Media Observatory’s Advisory Board in political discourse on social media, as well as the spread and impact of online misinformation.

Mary McCord is Legal Director at the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection (ICAP) and a Visiting Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center. At ICAP, McCord leads a team that brings constitutional impact litigation at all levels of the federal and state courts across a wide variety of areas including First Amendment rights, immigration, criminal justice reform, and combating the rise of private paramilitaries. McCord was the Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security at the U.S. Department of Justice from 2016 to 2017 and Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division from 2014 to 2016. McCord has written about domestic terrorism, unlawful militia activity, public safety, and the rule of law.

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