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Social media and misinformation a major reason militia groups keep growing, expert says

Many militia members were reported to be present at the U.S. Capitol riot
Social media and misinformation a major reason militia groups keep growing, expert says
Posted at 5:32 PM, Jan 18, 2021

COLORADO SPRINGS — With the allegations that a Woodland Park man reported to be present at the U.S. Capitol riot was involved in illegal militia group activity, comes lots of questions.

The big question--what are militia groups, and what do they want?

“For most of the groups, it’s a very anti-government, pro-liberty message,” University of Michigan Professor of Information Cliff Lampe told News 5.

In recent years, the study of these groups has become his focus.

“I’ve been professoring for a good long time,” Lampe said. “Five or six years ago I started investigating extremist groups and how they use social media.”

So who are these groups?

“I think, well-known nationwide, you have groups like the Three Percenters who have been around for about ten years now,” he said.

According to data compiled by the American Conflict Location and Event Data Project, far right wing militia groups are present in most states, including here in Colorado.

Groups like the Three Percenters, Oath Keepers, Proud Boys and Boogaloo Bois are some of the larger ones.

“They are very well armed, they’re starting to get some plans in place,” Lampe said.

NBC News reports many militia members were present at the U.S. Capitol riot this month.

One militia group even reportedly had plans to kidnap Michigan’s governor last year.

“I think there’s a real opportunity for some damage to be done by these groups,” Lampe said.

Are these groups really on the rise though?

“I think they are on the rise,” he said.

Lampe says social media plays a key role.

“They also will go into more mainstream sources like, Reddit, for instance, and find people who are sympathetic to their viewpoints, and then radicalize them into further action and membership,” he said.

The growing amount of misinformation and disinformation online is also a key role.

“People often tell me ‘go do your research' when they disagree with me," he said. "But that’s the problem. You can go to Google and find research that supports any viewpoint you have.”

Lampe said misinformation is not exclusive to one side or the other. He says the rise in people knowingly sharing and spreading false information is rampant from people with all points of view.

As for the man from Woodland Park alleged to have been involved in militia activity, a spokesperson for the Teller County Sheriff’s Office told News 5, ”there are no issues with militias in Teller County.”