A website called Faces of the Riot was created this month with the intention of helping to identify participants of the U.S. Capitol riot on January 6.
As federal authorities track down those involved in the violent siege and appeal for tips from the public, the Faces of the Riot site hosts a vast array of images extracted from video footage originally shared online by users of the social network Parler.
Before Parler‘s website was pulled offline by Amazon Web Services (AWS) this month in a dispute over content moderation, hackers exploited its lack of security measures to download the majority of posts that were publicly available, including videos shared by those in proximity to the violent insurrection attempt that left five people dead.
After the posts were archived online, the unnamed creator of the The Faces of the Riot website told Wired that they had used facial recognition software to detect and extract faces from a total of 827 videos, resulting in a trove of more than 6,000 pictures.
The creator, described only as a “college student in the greater D.C. area,” said the goal was to help find perpetrators and send tips to relevant law enforcement.
They told Wired: “Everybody who is participating in this violence, what really amounts to an insurrection, should be held accountable. It’s entirely possible that a lot of people who were on this website now will face real-life consequences for their actions.”
The website’s layout is simple—based on a large grid of faces of varying quality that, when clicked, shows the footage the image was originally sourced from.
Newsweek is not directly linking to the Faces of the Riot website because the directory poses privacy concerns for the people listed. As noted by Wired, it does not distinguish between those who entered the Capitol Building and those who remained outside.
The creator of the website appeared fully aware of the risks involved. A clear disclaimer on the page urges visitors to avoid conducting their own investigations using the facial scans, instead asking them to report information to the FBI. It also says that anyone who spots an incorrect image should send a message to its Twitter account.
The Faces of the Riot creator told Cnet that they had spent “about five hours” removing images of children and non-rioters before publishing the database to the internet.
The FBI says on its website that it is deploying its “full investigative resources” to pursue those involved in criminal activity during the January 6 riots in Washington, D.C., which were seemingly fueled by supporters of former president Donald Trump.
FBI Director Christopher Wray said on January 7: “We do not tolerate violent agitators and extremists who use the guise of First Amendment-protected activity to incite violence and wreak havoc. Such behavior betrays the values of our democracy.”