A National Guard soldier stands at a roadblock outside the Capitol in Washington DC as security is stepped up ahead of the inauguration ceremony of US President-elect Joe Biden. Photo / AP
The warning of acts of political violence in the United States has prompted New Zealand authorities to deploy an online counter-terrorism team.
The Department of Home Affairs assigned staff to monitor online platforms before, during and immediately after Joe Biden’s Presidential inauguration.
Warnings from US law enforcement about the increased risk of domestic terrorism or acts of violence in America prompted the move.
Concerns arose after a crowd supporting defeated President Donald Trump stormed the US Capitol two weeks ago.
Jared Mullen, DIA’s director of digital security, said a staff of specialists was ready to detect and respond to content that could harm New Zealanders.
“This includes potentially illegal content, such as videos or images that clearly promote terrorism or extreme violence.”
The counter terrorism monitoring team involved staff working in shifts to monitor the situation until at least Friday afternoon.
“Our first priority is to limit the availability of hazardous or potentially illegal materials, especially in cases where the spread of the virus poses a high public risk,” said Mullen.
“After this period, DIA will reassess the need for further monitoring.”
Supporting security precautions in New Zealand in response to an incident in Washington DC is an extraordinary step, said University of Otago political scientist Dr Robert Patman.
It is also a sign of how seriously the current government is taking the threat of right-wing extremism, he added.
Patman said the pictures, the content of the killings were shared on Facebook after Christchurch mosque shooting has surprised many people.
Social media platforms are rushing to shut down gruesome content such as the now banned terrorist live streaming, which proliferated after the mosque attacks on March 15, 2019.
Patman said before the Christchurch mosque shootings, local intelligence agencies were more concerned with the threat of Islamic terrorism.
“White supremacist terrorism or extreme white nationalism is not seen as a big problem. That perception has now changed significantly.”
Patman said the relationship between conspiracy theorists and Trump supporters who refuse to accept the US election results is not isolated internationally.
And he says many members of the group carrying out the deadly Capitol siege appear to have gotten most of their information from conspiracy theory sites.
Martin Cocker, executive director of Netsafe, said the DIA initiative was a possible way to get ahead of malicious content instead of catching up.
“There is intelligence [indicating] likely people want to interfere with the inauguration, “he said.
Cocker understands that groups identified in US intelligence include entities that previously produced harmful and objectionable content.
“Most groups, even with very extreme ideologies, have followers around the world.”
Cocker said news media attention to the inauguration meant some attention-seekers might engage in provocative or extremist action to gain mainstream media coverage.
The Capitol attack also raises questions about security in the Wellington Parliament area.
The Parliamentary Service finally announced a security review – but only after the man with the ax broken glass door in Parliament on December 13.
The attack on Congress earlier this month was the first time the US Capitol was violated since 1812, when British troops invaded.
Joe Biden’s inauguration as United’s 46th President begins at 6am on Thursday New Zealand time.