Defending Democracy on the Anniversary of January 6

Human Rights First salutes democracy’s champions, opposes those who undermine it

WASHINGTON — Human Rights First acknowledged the one-year anniversary of the insurrection at the United States Capitol by reprising our call to bring those responsible for the attack to justice, honoring those who continue the effort to save our democracy, and detailing our work to challenge the violent white extremism that was proven to be an existential threat to our democracy one year ago today.

“Events of one year ago and through the past year have shown that democracy in the United States is in great peril,” said Michael Breen, CEO and President of Human Rights First. “Today, we note the anniversary of the events of last January 6, but every day since has proven to be another January 6 as violent extremists continue to pursue their anti-democratic aims. We salute those who defend our democracy, but we understand the challenges are great and the work far from complete.”

Beyond calling for investigation and justice, Human Rights First’s work has put the organization at the forefront of the effort against domestic extremism because we realize the danger of ignoring the racist, xenophobic, and human rights-rejecting origins of these actions.

Our Innovation Lab prototyped and released AI software tools to monitor extremism and disinformation online and paired these tools with issue-area experts to map digital pathways that lead to radicalization.

These tools include RadiTube, created in our Innovation Lab to monitor extremism on YouTube, and the machine learning project Pyrra which we launched as a separate enterprise to identify and halt anti-democratic extremism. Our suite of tools, used by leading legal investigators, reporters, and civil society actors like ADL, Southern Poverty Law Center, NPR, and dozens more, are making a real difference in the understanding of extremists and their organizations.

In the year since the insurrection, Breen testified at the Department of Homeland Security about strategies to counter domestic terrorism and our experts briefed individual Congressional offices on violent white extremists’ danger to democracy, among other issues.

“Human Rights First is bringing together subject matter experts, technologists, and members of the veterans community to reduce extremists’ ability to act against our fellow Americans,” said Kareem Shora, Human Rights First’s Executive Vice President for Programs and Policy and former acting Deputy Director for Programs and Policy at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships which focuses on domestic violent extremism. “We are working as far upstream as legally and technically possible to keep extremists from undermining our democracy and undercutting all our human rights.”

In addition, Human Rights First has worked to contain individual extremists and keep their recruitment and radicalization efforts offline.

The organization initiated the de-platforming from a major social media platform of one of the most influential white supremacist figures in the U.S. and an architect of the January 6th attack on the Capitol.

Kristofer Goldsmith, senior advisor to Human Rights First’s Innovation Lab and our Veterans for American Ideals project, exposed coordinated digital attacks by neo-Nazis on journalists and investigators in December of last year, earning coverage from the Washington PostCNN, and VICE.

Finally, Human Right First recognizes the courage of those elected leaders – Republican and Democrat – who respect and defend our democracy, even in the face of partisan rancor.

“This is not an issue of right or left. It is an issue of right and wrong, of rights and abuses of those rights,” continued Breen. “The right to vote and have those votes counted is the critical element of all democracy, and we commend those on both sides of the aisle who defend it – especially the ten House Republicans who voted to impeach President Trump for his actions a year ago and Representative Liz Cheney who has put her country ahead of party. I may not agree with her often, but I salute her for being a true profile in courage on this issue.”


Published on September 19, 2022


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