“Call to Arms For American Patriots” - The Power of Behaviour-Based Frameworks for Policy Enforcement — Glitterpill

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Mohn’s video was removed from YouTube for violating their guidelines
— Justin Mohn
On the evening of Tuesday, January 30th, 2024, Mike Mohn, a federal employee, was brutally beheaded by his son, Justin Mohn inside their family home in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Justin uploaded a nearly 15-minute video to YouTube, which circulated for several hours before being taken down. In this video, Mohn held up his father’s severed head in a bloodied plastic bag while wearing gloves, identified himself as the leader of a ‘national militia network’ and declared war against the Biden administration. He also solicited local militias in Pennsylvania and New Jersey to serve as his personal security force.
One of Mohn's targets is Federal Judge Mark Kearney, for whom he issued a $100,000 bounty. In the video recording obtained and transcribed for analysis by Glitterpill, Mohn criticized Kearney for a ruling that resulted in the Philadelphia Police Department losing over $1 million in funds. According to Mohn, this would allow Philadelphia to become "more of a lawless zone."
The calls for action in the video included:
  • Encouragements to kill or capture federal employees and seize federal buildings.
  • Issuing bounties for the capture or killing of high-ranking government officials and judges.
  • Encouraging the targeting of media organizations and their employees if they spread "lies" about the revolution.
  • Calling for the use of force against groups like LGBTQ+, BLM, and Antifa that are described as "fifth column" threats.
  • Urging Americans to kill non-military federal employees in their families to protect their children and country.
Among specific targets mentioned in the video were:
  • All federal employees
  • FBI, IRS, and other federal law enforcement offices and agents
  • Federal courthouses and judges
  • Border patrol agents
  • Joe Biden and his cabinet
  • A federal judge
  • Media organizations
Mohn’s actions, the video, and the narratives he promoted raise critical security and safety concerns. It also carries significant implications for user-generated content platforms that may be abused to spread messages promoting or glorifying acts of violence or coordinating attacks.
While mental health issues and other contributing factors may play a role in events like these, we will refrain from speculation. As we observe the evolution of this case we will instead focus on observable behaviors and actions and their implications, as evidenced by information publicly shared online.
The public nature of this incident and the online dissemination of content produced by the perpetrator also underpins the significant implications cases like these carry for social media companies, and the importance of their Trust & Safety functions to limit the spread of harmful materials.
Based on a preliminary analysis of the content of Mohn’s statements, we picked up on several key narratives, including that Mohn believed himself to be capable of taking on a role as the acting president of America, and the belief he was targeted by the federal government. These may be indicative of grandiose and persecutory delusions. The content of his speech also appeared fragmented, jumping from one topic to another without clear connections.
In the analyzed excerpt Mohn falsely declares himself as the acting president of America under martial law. He also asserts that he was previously considered a potential presidential candidate in 2020, by electors and campaign contributors in both the Republican and Democratic parties, despite his age. He further asserts the reason he was not elected was that he was betrayed by the FBI and his own family.
Mohn further claimed that he had $10 million in funds to reward those who capture government officials and support patriots. Among those he wanted captured were high-ranking officials like the FBI Director, the Attorney General, and a Supreme Court Chief Justice.
Mohn believes he was betrayed and links this to a belief that others see him as the Messiah:
“But I was instead betrayed by the FBI, federal courts and my own family because there are people who believe I'm the Messiah. And this belief goes against the federal government, satanic communist ideology. This belief that I'm the Messiah is also why you've never heard this story on the news, because it would spread that belief. I'm not saying I am the Messiah, I would never compare myself to Jesus Christ. I'm just saying that's why I was betrayed.”
Our analysts have found several examples of online communities diagnosing Mohn with Schizophrenia. These communities include those focused on sharing imagery containing gore and amplifying the video.

A Behavioral Approach to Policy Enforcement

A challenge in cases like these is the application of a definitional framework to interpret what has happened in real time. Rather than resting on clearly defined ideologies or affiliation with defined and designated groups our approach, and general advice as we work with clients to protect their interests against extremist abuses is thus fundamentally behavior-based. This approach empowers stakeholders, such as online platforms that share and amplify videos, to quickly take action.
Based on the behavior on display in the video a man was brutally murdered, and his severed head was used as a prop by an individual who hoped to incite further instances of anti-government violence. The video was produced by the perpetrator, contained depictions of violence, and appeared on multiple platforms. This in itself was sufficient for the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT) to activate its Content Incident Protocol (CIP), to facilitate the coordinated removal of the video from across member platforms. The video also appears to have been removed from various channels on non-GIFCT member platforms.
The fact that frameworks applied for enforcement do not rest on analysis of intent but rather on behaviors that can be quickly determined means action can swiftly be taken to mitigate harm. It does, however, not in itself imply acts that may be driven i.e. by psychotic episodes, meet legal or academic definitions of terrorism or violent extremism.
While immediate action has already been taken in this case, determining its relationship to violent extremism is important for a number of reasons. Further understanding how Mohn’s calls for action may inspire various communities that may be aligned with his worldview, which may manifest in offline action, or further spread of online content celebrating or inspiring violence.
There’s no universally accepted definition of terrorism or violent extremism. At Glitterpill we define violent extremism as the violent denial of diversity and terrorism as acts of direct violence rooted in this. Like many definitions, this does to a degree rest on the intent of the perpetrator. Discerning intent may rest both on behavior, such as targeting or the form of violence, as well as statements made by perpetrators. Further analysis of materials tied to Mohn and his acts will shed light on the intent, and whether that aligns with our definition of violent extremism and terrorism.
While Mohn’s actions may have more widespread implications, the behaviors on display in the video he shared already violate multiple policies enforceable both by online platforms and by regulators globally. These policies include frameworks to prevent the glorification of violence. Mohn’s mental state, or even the nature of most of his statements, should not impact social media companies’ ability to make quick determinations about content that violates its terms of service.
In conclusion, the event involving Justin Mohn underlines the urgent need for robust measures against the spread of violence-promoting narratives online. Mohn's act of brutal violence and the subsequent sharing of this act on various platforms raise alarm for the security and safety of not just individuals but society at large. His delusional beliefs and the potential for such narratives to influence others underscore the importance of behavioral analysis in policy enforcement.
Our work has helped platforms respond rapidly to such incidents, evidenced by the removal of Mohn's video across various platforms.
However, the task at hand requires us to remain vigilant, proactive, and consistent. Our analysts will continue to monitor the situation as more information is brought to light. We will continue our efforts to make a significant impact in mitigating the spread of violent extremism online and ensuring the safety of our communities and our clients.
To learn more about the work we do and the services we provide check out our website www.glitterpill.io.