A DOJ Funded ‘Violent Extremism’ Censorship Project is Tracking Archaeology Journalist Graham Hancock’s Website

A recent FFO report revealed the Department of Justice is pouring millions of taxpayer dollars into “research” programs that monitor millions of Americans at scale, labeling them as potential violent extremists. The Justice Department explicitly sought out such programs, through a grant program on “domestic radicalization and violent extremism,” with $4,109,127 in grants awarded so far.

One of these grants went to Youngstown State University (YSU) in Ohio, for a project titled “A Frame Analysis of Violence and Accelerationism in Cognitive Radicalization.” The project consists of mass-monitoring the speech of millions of Americans, and analyzing it for common patterns. Many of the program’s targets are familiarly political: White Christian Trump supporters, populist news websites, and fans of former presidential candidate and big government opponent Ron Paul.

Another target of the program is more unusual: Graham Hancock, an archaeology journalist whose controversial yet popular work focuses on evidence of lost ancient civilizations. YSU’s project update for May 2023 shows that over 100,000 posts from the discussion forum on Hancock’s website have been tagged by the program, which is now backed by DOJ funding:

Hancock is often attacked by mainstream archaeologists, who have branded him a “pseudo-archaeologist” over his theories, which hold that advanced human civilizations existed long before the consensus dates of 4000 – 3000 B.C.E. Hancock has cited recently unearthed evidence such as the 11,000 year old structures at Gobekli Tepe in Turkey to support his claims.

Despite the critiques from archaeologists, Hancock’s work is staggeringly popular: his books have sold more than seven million copies, and his 2022 Netflix documentary became the second-most watched series on the platform in its first week of release. His appearances on the Joe Rogan Experience also attracted a large audience, with two appearances gaining over 20 million views each, entering the top 10 most popular videos on Rogan’s YouTube channel.

None of this explains why Hancock’s website is being monitored as part of a “cognitive radicalization” research project, which claims to be targeting potential violent extremists. As shown above, his website is included on a list of targets that includes the openly neo-Nazi forum Stormfront.

The DOJ’s page on the YSU grant makes it clear that “violent extremism” is the project’s focus:

A project team from Youngstown State University proposes to use the existing big-data project, the Frames of Misinformation, Extremism, and Conspiracism, to measure and examine the content of violent extremist and accelerationist discourse using social-media posts from a group of platforms known to host concentrations of extremist material. The research also attempts to trace connections between this material and historic texts tied to or appropriated by extremist groups.

The purpose of this study is to engage in a frame analysis of contemporary discourse associated with domestic radicalization. The results are then used to launch discussions with professionals outside of law-enforcement and security-related occupations about possible responses to online radicalization threatening their areas. The project has five goals: (1) to quantify the presence, syntactical structure, and sentiment of violent and accelerationist ideas; (2) to establish associations between violent and accelerationist ideas with other thematic frames; (3) to assess the influence of historic texts in the promotion of historic texts in the promotion of contemporary violent extremism and accelerationism; (4) to identify patterns and strategies related to the cross-platforming, intergroup convergence, and mainstreaming of extremist language and ideologies; and (5) to launch multidisciplinary discussions of the everyday impact of violent and accelerationist discourse in three topic areas – public health, criminal victimization, and educational leadership.

Buried at the bottom of the YSU project’s reports is a justification for targeting Hancock’s website: that “alternative positions on science and history” are fair targets for tracking because “extremism and conspiracism are linked.”

From the project’s May 2023 report:

The fact that a project purportedly aimed at targeting potential “violent extremists” ended up deliberately catching not just mainstream conservative and libertarian websites in its net, but also “alternative positions on history” is a case study in censorship industry mission-creep. It also means¬† Department of Justice has involved the government (and taxpayer dollars) in a project that seemingly aims to monitor and suppress theories about ancient lost civilizations.