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Meet the 'Sedition Hunters'

Bloomberg looks at the informal network of people identifying rioters at the Capitol
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 13, 2021 4:35 PM CDT

(Newser) – The revolution was televised. Or at least live-streamed. And now a network of online amateur sleuths is dedicated to identifying those who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6. In a profile at Bloomberg Businessweek, David Yaffe-Bellany talks to several of these "sedition hunters" about their mission to pore over endless hours of video and still images and set up databases for cross-referencing, all as volunteers. “Every person brings a piece of the puzzle together,” says one of them, Chris Sigurdson of Canada. “People are only able to really hone in on somebody based on the work that everyone else is doing.” The 58-year-old, with time on his hands amid the pandemic as an out-of-work actor, set out in January to identify a rioter who doused officers with chemical spray. The FBI cited Sigurdson's tweet about his work when it arrested a Texas man weeks later.

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Another such sleuth is a stay-at-home mom in the Pacific Northwest who has annotated roughly 100 hours of video. She tells Yaffe-Bellany she now watches the video on mute to avoid burnout from the rhetoric. Another puts on classical music for the same reason. The crowdsourcing appears to be making a difference: The FBI saw a 750% increase in calls and tips to its main hotline immediately after the riot, and it is still receiving about the twice the normal amount. A spokeswoman says such tips have helped in "dozens" of cases, and the FBI continues to ask for help in identifying people in photos. The story also addresses a potential dark side—the dangers of vigilante justice or of people being mistakenly identified. “When you do it publicly, there’s just a lot more that can go wrong," says an exec with the Anti-Defamation League. Read the full story. (Read more Capitol riot stories.)

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