JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The FBI’s Jacksonville division has reported a concerning trend in North Florida involving the targeting of young individuals who are being urged to share dangerous messages online.
Local and federal law enforcement officials have observed that due to the increased accessibility of online content, extremist groups, and individuals find it easier to recruit youngsters via the internet.
According to Coult Markovsky, Assistant Special Agent in Charge at FBI Jacksonville, the internet provides a means for radicalization and group joining without the need for overseas travel. Violent extremists now have a broad online audience to which they can direct their efforts.
Markovsky notes that the FBI is taking proactive measures to curb the dissemination of potentially harmful communications, as violence among juveniles and young adults is on the rise.
Extremist organizations are exploiting online platforms to target minors and engage them in spreading hate-filled messages and dangerous political or religious ideologies. Markovsky emphasizes that propaganda takes various forms, including violent videos and written doctrines.
The scope of the threat is evolving across the forty counties covered by the FBI’s Jacksonville office. Markovsky mentions an increase in young individuals consuming violent propaganda and collaborating with local partners to counteract these influences.
The St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office is one of the local partners working with the FBI. Lieutenant George Harrigan explains that while extremist views are not illegal, law enforcement becomes involved when criminal intent or potential harm is identified.
The Joint Terrorism Task Force, along with local law enforcement, steps in to intervene and prevent violent acts. Arrests are not always the focus; rather, the goal is to deter violent behavior.
Parents are encouraged to play a role in prevention by understanding technology and its potential dangers. Markovsky advises reporting any suspicious activity to law enforcement.
All media platforms are seen as potential avenues for extremist targeting of young people, and protecting the community from domestic and international threats is a top priority for the FBI. When credible information is received, local partners and schools are informed to ensure awareness.