Role Is Critical As Online Hate Has Translated To Real-World Violence
Extremists across the world have misused social media platforms to upload violent propaganda and hateful manifestos. Counter Extremism Project (CEP) Executive Director David Ibsen recently wrote in an op-ed for The Hill about the attacks in El Paso, Christchurch, and Poway—all of which have links to 8chan’s politically incorrect board, an online message board known for attracting far-right and neo-Nazi users due to its lax content moderation policies. Ibsen states that despite 8chan’s refusal to remove white nationalist and white supremacist material under the guise of protecting free speech, Internet infrastructure companies “have demonstrated that it is possible to combat such inaction and prevent the spread of extremist content.”
Internet infrastructure companies such as Voxility can choose to cease providing services to other tech firms that support and help facilitate the spread of extremism online, thereby shutting down those companies’ operations, as Voxility did in the case of the El Paso attack and Epik/Bitmitigate. He explains, “Voxility’s decision serves as a useful example of how a business-to-business (B2B) tech company can help prevent the spread of hateful, extremist content by denying critical services to other firms … The Internet is effectively a network of networks, an ecosystem where a reliance on others can be leveraged to mitigate the most extreme and dangerous websites.”
Neo-Nazi groups and other extremists have also used Internet and social media sites to urge real-world violence and recruit supporters. Recently, the Feuerkrieg Division (FKD) claimed prior knowledge about a planned attack on Las Vegas Jewish and LGBTQ communities. CEP has written previously on FKD’s propensity to call for real-life violence and praise for white supremacists Dylann Roof and Robert Bowers.
A recent VICE News article pointed to the rise of recruitment and presence of “The Base” across major North American cities. Social media platforms have been utilized by “The Base,” a connected group to the Atomwaffen Division and FKD, to recruit members and participation in weapons and live-fire training. CEP researcher Joshua Fisher-Birch stated that “The Base presents a ‘significant threat’ because it is attempting to build a network with ‘individuals in different groups, or those with slight ideological differences … the group has ‘combined online recruitment efforts with real-world efforts’ including supporting ‘lone-actor violence’ and ‘shared terrorist tactics.’”