The Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday released a report on the rise of white supremacists and nationalists in social media accounts often run by young white males.
DHS is warning that these extremists could be violently attacking public places in the coming months.
Often using coded hashtags and innuendo, the accounts are suggesting the FBI and CIA are behind mass shootings as they traffic in racist, sexist, and homophobic tropes across social media platforms like Instagram, Telegram and TikTok.
These accounts are riling up thousands of followers about topics such as abortion, guns, immigration and LGBTQ rights.
Extremist ideology has become so common on social media that an undercover FBI agent says it’s become nearly impossible to tell the difference between internet ramblings and dangerous, potentially violent people. He says many false alarms drown out legitimate threats.
- The 18-year-old killer in Buffalo followed neo-Nazi websites and saw the Christchurch mosque shooting on 4Chan, an anonymous messaging board.
- The 23-year-old shooter at a Walmart in El Paso shared hate messages on 8Chan, another messaging board.
- The killer at a Pennsylvania synagogue in 2018 used Gab, a home for extremists.
Hate-filled messages are less obvious across mainstream media sources like Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and Telegram.
Users avoid trigger words such as “white genocide” or “white power” to avoid moderation cues. Instead they use less obvious euphemisms.
- A Christian cross emoji in their profile
- The terms “anglo” or “pilled”
- The song “White Boy Summer” has been used to cheer the leaked draft of the Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade
Facebook and Instragram owner Meta says it has more than 350 experts, with backgrounds from national security to radicalization research, dedicated to ridding the site of hate speech.
But the Associated Press discovered one Instragram account that posted the photo of a billboard saying, “We’re just 75 years since the gas chambers. So no, a billboard calling out bigotry against Jews isn’t an overreaction.” But the messaging of the post denied the use of gas chambers, and the comments on the post were horrific.
“If what they said really happened, we’d be in such a better place,” one user commented. “We’re going to finish what they started someday,” another wrote.
Researchers say the extremists are using ISIS tactics to recruit.
“We’re starting to see some of the same patterns with ISIS and the far-right. The coded speech, the ways to evade AI. The groups were appealing to a younger and younger crowd.”
The Good News
Law enforcement officials on the local and national level are investigating one active threat from an Arizona man. The Arizona man claims on his Telegram accounts that he is “leading the war” against retail giant Target for its Pride Month merchandise and children’s clothing line and has promised to “hunt LGBT supporters” at the stores.