Anyone who has watched a national newscast over the past several months is aware of the chaos and destruction caused by extremist groups throughout the country. With none of those events taking place in Montana, many residents may believe anything like this could happen in their own back yard.
According to Moonshot, that may not be completely true.
Moonshot, a pioneering safety tech firm which designs new technology and methodologies to combat online harms, has launched state-by-state reports following a six month long search campaign in the US that focused on Domestic Violent Extremist Mobilization to targeted violence, political violence, anti-government, conspiracy theories, and armed groups. The campaigns ran from September 2020 to March 2021, capturing more than 70,000 high risk searches throughout the US.
The study ranked each county from one to six with one simply showing curiosity in extremist groups to six as a desire to cause harm and join extremist groups.
While Richland County did not place in the higher threat categories (4-6), neighboring McCone County earned a level six, the only county in the state to earn the highest threat level. Roosevelt County was given a level four rating.
Although not bordering Richland County, Musselshell and Stillwater counties were in category five.
As for the state’s demographics may surprise some. While the majority of the violence seen on national news came from those under 30, the largest number of searches for extremist groups and anti-government activity came from those between 45-54 years old (41%), 55-64 years old (27%), over 65 (13%), 35-44 years old (9%), 25-34 (7%) and 18-24 year olds (3%). Also, 89% of those performing searches from Montana for this type of information were male.
The nationwide search data is broken down by U.S. states and their respective counties, showing findings on a localized level and comparing this to the national averages. Aside from this, the report shows the top 10 state-specific search terms, most prominent themes, risk level indicators, and demographics, such as age and gender. The data captured significant events such as the 2020 US presidential election, the January 6 Capitol riot, and the inauguration.
It will likely come as no surprise that the peak for searches came in early November 2020 during the presidential election.
The main themes across the US ranking in order of search numbers were Conspiracy Theory, Armed Groups, Anti-Government, Targeted Violence and Political Violence. The Conspiracy Theory theme was particularly popular amongst QAnon conspiracy theory seekers, as noted in search terms such as, “qanon plan to save the world” and “great awakening wwg1wga”. Searches connected to the theme of Armed Group appeared to be varied in potential group affiliation, with searches indicating an interest to join the “Three Percenters”, “Proud Boys”, or “Oath Keepers”, as well as merchandise related to the groups and glorification of group members.
The reports serve two key purposes: to provide evidence for the online search appetite for domestic violent extremist activity, as well as to share key insights that are paramount for future interventions. These findings can help inform future campaigns around hate, violence and extremism.
Moonshot CVE is a global social enterprise working to end online harms, applying evidence, ethics and human rights.