(New York, N.Y.) — The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) reports weekly on the methods used by extremists to exploit the Internet and social media platforms to recruit followers and incite violence. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, various extremist groups and individuals took to multiple online platforms such as RocketChat, Element, Hoop, and Telegram to promote their ideology in relation to the invasion. Pro-ISIS communities noted with satisfaction that countries that had fought against the terrorist group were now fighting each other. Some neo-Nazis and far-right groups posted antisemitic conspiracy theories claiming the war was planned by Jews in Russia and Ukraine, whereas others stated they supported white people and not a specific country.
On Telegram, CEP researchers found an archive of ISIS propaganda. Also, on Telegram, a neo-Nazi group in New England celebrated the interruption of a reading at a left-wing library in Providence, Rhode Island. Finally, there were several versions of the Christchurch terrorist attack video and content glorifying the attacker found online.
Pro-ISIS Online Communities Note Russian Invasion of Ukraine
Pro-ISIS online communities on RocketChat, Element, Hoop, and Telegram celebrated the February 24 Russian invasion of Ukraine, stating that those who had fought against the terrorist group were now fighting each other. Channels and chat participants posted memes and sought to portray NATO, especially Germany, as weak and unable to help Ukraine. Other posts included open-source information regarding Russian attacks, while others celebrated the loss of life on both the Ukrainian and Russian sides. At least one chat participant was excited by the potential availability of small arms during and after the conflict.
Neo-Nazis and Extreme Right on Telegram Post Antisemitic and Homophobic Content in Reaction to Russian Invasion of Ukraine
On Telegram, Neo-Nazis and the extreme right were divided on Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine. Most accounts posted antisemitic conspiracy theories and described the invasion as a “brothers’ war” secretly planned by Jews on both sides of the conflict. Other Telegram accounts posted a 4chan thread claiming that Jews secretly controlled Russia.
A website dedicated to spreading the work of neo-Nazi James Mason made a statement in support of Ukrainian fascists but also condemned the Ukrainian government, making an antisemitic allegation that the government was controlled by Jews. Neo-Nazi accelerationist Telegram channels made antisemitic posts about the conflict and noted that the “real enemies” were in the U.S. and not in Russia or Ukraine. One accelerationist channel stated that individuals should use the current moment to continue building decentralized cells in case the war in Ukraine takes up the U.S. government’s attention. Overall, accelerationist channels hoped for chaos and a breakdown in order in the U.S.
Rise Above Movement inspired Active Clubs posted antisemitic content and stated that they hoped for an end to the conflict. One Active Club chapter had initially stated on February 21 that they supported the Russian-backed breakaway regions of Luhansk and Donetsk because they were fighting against Jews, liberalism, and “globalism,” however, the admin deleted the post. On February 24, the same group issued a modified statement, stating that they supported white people and not one specific side in the conflict.
The main Proud Boys Telegram channel posted homophobic memes denigrating both Ukraine and the U.S., and a Proud Boys affiliated media group alleged that the U.S. government would conduct a false flag attack to push the U.S. into a war with Russia.
Archive of ISIS Propaganda Videos Located on Telegram
CEP researchers located an archive of ISIS propaganda on Telegram, accessible after messaging a Telegram user and then being sent propaganda content in a person-to-person message. The individual contact account was advertised on RocketChat and Element. The method is used to circumvent Telegram’s efforts to remove ISIS channels and chats.
ISIS propaganda on Telegram
New England Neo-Nazi Group Celebrates Disrupting Event at Left-Wing Library
The neo-Nazi group Nationalist Social Club (NSC) celebrated interrupting a reading at a left-wing library in Providence, Rhode Island, on February 21. In a video posted on Telegram, Gab, and Odysee, NSC members chanted white supremacist slogans outside of the library, knocked on windows, and waved a swastika flag before police arrived and the group fled on foot. On Telegram and Gab, the group celebrated shutting down the reading. The Odysee video had over 600 views approximately two days after NSC posted it.
On the group’s main Telegram channel, NSC favorably noted the media attention they had received after the action. The event was also celebrated by several Rise Above Movement-inspired Active Club chapters and at least one channel where the admins claim to be members of the Proud Boys. Positive coverage of the event was also located on Gab and Twitter, the latter by a journalist affiliated with the far-right news website National File. Telegram has removed at least three channels affiliated with NSC, including two belonging to their Rhode Island chapter before February 21, however, several of the group’s accounts, including their main account, are still on the communications app.
Christchurch Terrorist Video Located on Multiple Platforms
CEP researchers located several versions of the Christchurch terrorist attack video or content glorifying the attacker. The full attack video was located on the file sharing site Catbox and an additional online file archive site. Footage from the attack video modified to appear like a video game was also located on Catbox and a Russian imageboard. CEP also located two posts made by the same account on Instagram that included a modified photo from the attack video and a recreation of the attack in the video game Minecraft. Several posts glorifying the terrorist attack, including posting the video, the attacker’s manifesto, and files for recreating the attack video in the video game Garry’s Mod (also known as GMod), were located on an online file archive site.