Extremist Content Online: Telegram Edition

(New York, N.Y.) The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) reports weekly on the methods used by extremists to spread propaganda, recruit followers, and incite violence on popular social media platforms in order to hold companies accountable for failures to prevent the dissemination of extremist and terrorist content.

Following the December 3 attack on two power substations by unknown individuals using a “high-powered rifle” to destroy substation equipment in Moore County, North Carolina, that initially left 45,000 homes and businesses without electricity, white supremacists and neo-Nazis celebrated and encouraged additional attacks on Telegram.

A prominent Telegram channel that has been removed from the platform multiple times called the attack “a beautiful escalation.” Other users posted a video containing information on which substation components to target. Users also posted information on making explosives. Telegram commenters advocated for similar future assaults and celebrated what they falsely stated was the cancelation of a drag show.

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Video posted on a neo-Nazi Telegram channel encouraging attacks on infrastructure, posted on December 4.

Rinaldo Nazzaro, the founder of The Base, stated on Telegram that the attack could only be successful if an individual or group took credit. On December 7, a neo-Nazi channel dedicated to information and operations security with over 11,000 subscribers celebrated a late November attack on electrical infrastructure in Oregon that was recently made public and stated that further attacks would make people “desperate and hard to control.” A member of a neo-Nazi Telegram chat hoped that other attacks on electrical infrastructure were imminent, which could allow individuals to commit crimes while surveillance systems are inoperable.

Attacking electrical infrastructure, including substations, has been strongly and frequently promoted by the neo-Nazi accelerationist movement. On June 1, 2022, neo-Nazi accelerationists released a manual that advocated for assaults on the U.S. electrical grid instead of mass shooting attacks targeting regular people, arguing that targeting infrastructure would cause more damage, eventually leading to societal collapse. The 14-page document included information on the 2013 Metcalf Sniper Attack, where unknown individuals destroyed 17 electrical transformers in California with rifles.

Additionally, a neo-Nazi accelerationist book released online in June 2021, an approximately 260-page book published online in December 2021, and a book released in July 2022 included sections devoted to advocating for attacks on electrical infrastructure to promote chaos and fear and lead to a breakdown of order and increase distrust of the government. The July book included diagrams of various electrical infrastructure systems and information on using firearms against transformers. In August 2021, members of a neo-Nazi cell were charged with “conspiracy to damage the property of an energy facility in the United States,” in addition to firearms-related crimes.

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On May 8, 2019, Taliban insurgents detonated an explosive-laden vehicle and then broke into American NGO Counterpart International’s offices in Kabul. At least seven people were killed and 24 were injured.

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