On Oct. 28, 2020, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified in Congress about what he was doing to monitor online extremism, citing his company’s work with law enforcement to apprehend the men who had allegedly tried to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer weeks earlier.
“We identified that as a signal to the FBI about six months ago, when we started seeing some suspicious activity on our platform.”
However, it was revealed during the Whitmer kidnapping plot trial in March that at least some of that “suspicious activity” was conducted by FBI informants.
Facebook didn’t respond to emails from The Epoch Times seeking comment.
According to the U.S. government, the extremist rhetoric of the alleged Whitmer kidnap plotters was first noticed in March 2020 by Army veteran Dan Chappel, who later served as a key FBI informant. Chappel said in court that he was scrolling online when the Wolverine Watchmen militia’s Facebook page “popped up as a suggestion post.”
Fox was made administrator of the Michigan Three Percenters’ Facebook page created by the FBI informants, Gibbons said.
“He got that Facebook page courtesy of the federal government,” the attorney said.
After being made administrator of the Facebook page, Gibbons said, Fox received a message from another FBI informant named “Mark.” Fox then attended a militia training event in Munith, Michigan, on June 28, 2020, Gibbons said.
The alleged plot escalated from there, until Fox was arrested along with Croft, Daniel Harris, Brandon Caserta, Ty Garbin, and Kaleb Franks in October 2020.
At a March 31 webinar hosted by George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, academics discussed the issue of curtailing online extremist rhetoric. The webinar’s moderator told The Epoch Times that FBI informants administering Three Percenters Facebook pages is one of the complicating factors in trying to monitor speech.
“Being in extremist online spaces carries a very prolific rate of ‘friendly fire,’ in terms of the number of actors with different understands, goals, and perspectives all being in one place,” said Program on Extremism senior research fellow Bennett Clifford, referring to federal informants.
“If you’re in any sort of group or platform or channel where there’s a congregation of extremists, you can also expect to find nation-state actors, folks from law enforcement, interested observers, and so on,” he said.
“And sorting out the discourse in those arenas, and contextualizing who belongs to what, or what belongs to whom, is increasingly difficult in avoiding those cross-reactions that happen when you have that motley crew of people together. It can be very difficult from a regulatory perspective, as well.”