On Thursday, writing for MSNBC, former FBI official Frank Figliuzzi outlined how federal officials have successfully created a crowdsourced operation to capture the people who violently stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6.
"After the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, public tips about the identities of the rioters continue to stream into the FBI," wrote Figliuzzi. "They're part of a natural evolution in the average Joe's role in securing our democracy — we've moved from 'keep your mouth shut' to 'keep your eyes open' to a play-at-home variation of Call of Duty in which everyone can become a virtual bounty hunter. And so far, it's working — with certain caveats."
All of this is necessary, noted Figliuzzi, because of the sheer number of suspects — over 500 people have been charged so far. This is also a natural way to catch them because Americans are spending more time than ever on mobile devices, and have produced thousands of pages of evidence. And, Figliuzzi noted, the "good news" aspect of the story has produced tons of members of the public willing to help.
"But deputizing the public for digital detective work isn't without its problems," noted Figliuzzi. "Things can go wrong when even well-meaning people skip the part where they're supposed to report their findings to law enforcement. Misidentifications can lead to wrongful accusations, and exposure of personal information could result in vigilantism and violence — the very thing that sedition hunters are trying to thwart. As described in Bloomberg, 'A retired Chicago firefighter was falsely accused of participating in the riot after footage surfaced showing a lookalike hitting police with a fire extinguisher.'"
"When it comes to an assault on our democracy, an all-hands-on-deck strategy is needed — but everyone needs to be rowing in the same direction," concluded Figliuzzi. "Crowdsourced solutions to crime are as old as the wanted posters in Wild West post offices and as contemporary as Amber Alerts for missing children. Now, instead of cattle rustlers or kidnappers, we're being asked to help identify a different kind of outlaw — the kind who tries to steal our democracy. Those outlaws won't stop their efforts just because some of them have been captured; neither should we."
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