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Examining Online Indicators of Extremism in Violent Right-Wing Extremist Forums

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Abstract

Although many law enforcement and intelligence agencies are concerned about online communities known to facilitate violent right-wing extremism, little is empirically known about the presence of extremist ideologies, expressed grievances, or violent mobilization efforts that make up these spaces. In this study, we conducted a content analysis of a sample of postings from two of the most conspicuous right-wing extremist forums known for facilitating violent extremism, Iron March and Fascist Forge. We identified a number of noteworthy posting patterns within and across forums which may assist law enforcement and intelligence agencies in identifying credible threats online.
Examining Online Indicators of Extremism in Violent Right-Wing Extremist Forums
Ryan Scrivens
School of Criminal Justice, Michigan State University
East Lansing, Michigan, USA
rscriv@msu.edu
Amanda Isabel Osuna
School of Criminal Justice, Michigan State University
East Lansing, Michigan, USA
Steven M. Chermak
School of Criminal Justice, Michigan State University
East Lansing, Michigan, USA
Michael A. Whitney
School of Criminal Justice, Michigan State University
East Lansing, Michigan, USA
Richard Frank
School of Criminology, Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada
EXAMINING ONLINE INDICATORS OF EXTREMISM
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Disclosure Statement
No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.
Funding
This work was supported by Michigan State University’s Early Start Research Fellowship
Program within the College of Social Science.
Acknowledgement
The authors would like to thank Lance Lindsay, Mary Murphy, Dhespina Qipo, and Hannah
Berghol for their assistance in coding data for the current study. The authors would also like to
thank Thomas J. Holt for his helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper.
EXAMINING ONLINE INDICATORS OF EXTREMISM
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Examining Online Indicators of Extremism in Violent Right-Wing Extremist Forums
Abstract
Although many law enforcement and intelligence agencies are concerned about online
communities known to facilitate violent right-wing extremism, little is empirically known about
the presence of extremist ideologies, expressed grievances, or violent mobilization efforts that
make up these spaces. In this study, we conducted a content analysis of a sample of postings
from two of the most conspicuous right-wing extremist forums known for facilitating violent
extremism, Iron March and Fascist Forge. We identified a number of noteworthy posting
patterns within and across forums which may assist law enforcement and intelligence agencies in
identifying credible threats online.
Purpose
This study examines extremist ideologies, grievances, and violent extremist mobilization efforts
that are expressed in the open access sections of the Iron March and Fascist Forge forums, both
of which have gained notoriety for their members’ online advocacy of violence and acts of
violence carried out by them. The goal is to quantify the extent to which online indicators of
extremism are found in these violent right-wing extremist (RWE) forums. This study represents
an original contribution to the academic literature on violent online political extremism on three
fronts.
First, researchers, practitioners, and policymakers have paid close attention to the
presence of terrorists and extremists online in recent years, with a particular emphasis on digital
communities that facilitate RWE ideologies.
1
This is largely the result of ongoing reports that
EXAMINING ONLINE INDICATORS OF EXTREMISM
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some violent RWEs and terrorists were active online prior to their attacks,
2
with one of the most
recent examples being 28-year-old Australian Brenton Tarrant who, before killing 50 people in
two Christchurch, New Zealand mosques in 2019 and live-streaming his attack, announced his
intentions on 8chan and produced a ‘manifesto’ linked on the website.
3
It should come as little
surprise, then, that researchers have focused on the presence of RWE ideologies on various
platforms, including websites and discussion forums,
4
mainstream social media sites such as
Facebook,
5
Twitter,
6
and YouTube,
7
fringe platforms including 4chan
8
and Gab,
9
and digital
applications such as TikTok
10
and Telegram.
11
But in light of these important contributions, an
empirical study of the ideologies that make up some of the most violent RWE discussion forums,
such as Iron March and Fascist Forge, has been overlooked. An exhaustive search using
dedicated academic research databases produced just four studies on the presence of the extreme
right on Iron March or on Fascist Forge,
12
two of which focused on extremist ideologies
specifically. Davey and colleagues
13
, for example, in their assessment of the social media
footprint of Canadian right-wing extremists found some variation in self-declared ideologies
expressed on Iron March compared to Fascist Forge, with Fascist Forge users appearing to be
more ideological homogenous than users on Iron March. Similarly, Lee and Knott
14
in their
assessment of the role of ideological learning in Fascist Forge found that a majority of the site
users associated themselves with just a few RWE ideological categories (e.g., National Socialist
or Fascist). The authors also described the ideological formation and relationships on Fascist
Forge as a “narrow way rather than a broad church.”
15
Notwithstanding these studies, what we
generally know about the extremist ideologies that make up Fascist Forge and Iron March is
more of a journalistic description
16
than an academic analysis. In other words, we have little
scholarship on the presence of RWE ideologies on these violent platforms and fewer efforts to
EXAMINING ONLINE INDICATORS OF EXTREMISM
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systematically analyze the scope of RWE ideologies within these spaces. Furthermore, previous
research in this regard has focused exclusively on forum users who are geo-located to Canada
17
or users’ introductory posts to the forums and subsequent responses,
18
thus overlooking the wider
ideological dynamics – and pool of users and posting patterns – that make up these violent RWE
forums. There can be little doubt that a more expansive assessment is needed.
Second, researchers have found that RWEs, among other extremists, have maintained a
presence on multiple online platforms.
19
As a result, there have been recent calls in terrorism and
extremism studies for more comparative research across platforms.
20
Many practitioners and
policymakers are likewise concerned with (1) the presence of extremist ideologies across
platforms, (2) whether the extremist ideologies on various platforms are similar or distinct, and
(3) whether certain platforms have unique functions for facilitating extremist ideologies.
21
While
there has been a recent surge of research on the presence of RWE ideologies on various online
platforms,
22
little is empirically known about such ideologies across platforms.
23
Of the limited
cross-platform studies that have been conducted in this regard, Davey and Ebner
24
explored the
ideological nexus and convergence of the ‘new’ extreme right in Europe and the United States
(U.S.) on 4chan, 8chan, Voat, Gab, and Discord. Davey and colleagues
25
also assessed the scale
and scope of Canadian right-wing extremist activity and ideologies within and across various
online platforms, including on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, 4chan, Gab, Fascist Forge, and Iron
March. Zannettou and colleagues
26
measured the spread of anti-Semitic content across 4chan and
Gab. Ribeiro and colleagues
27
explored whether users become more ideologically radicalized
when they migrate from r/The_Donald to thedonald.win and from r/Incels to incels.co as a result
of stronger content moderation. Lastly, Holt and colleagues
28
examined the ideological
sentiments expressed across several RWE forums. Together, these studies highlight the similar
EXAMINING ONLINE INDICATORS OF EXTREMISM
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and diverging nature of RWE ideologies both within and across online platforms. Regardless,
this emerging evidence base remains in its infancy and requires further exploration.
Third, there is a growing body of research in terrorism and extremism studies attempting
to develop indicators of violent extremist mobilization and related work exploring risk
29
and
protective
30
factors critical to processes of violent radicalization. Much of the emphasis in these
studies is on an individual’s expressed grievance(s) as an important risk factor for determining
whether someone is preparing to engage in violent extremism or terrorism.
31
A growing body of
research has also explored various online mobilization efforts by RWE movements (among other
extremist movements), including – but not limited to – empirical studies exploring the
mobilization efforts by RWE groups and movements on social media
32
and digital applications
33
as well as the impact of trigger events on online mobilization such as the effect of riots,
34
rallies,
35
terrorist attacks,
36
and presidential election results.
37
Law enforcement and intelligence
agencies likewise recognize the need to better understand extremist mobilization efforts online,
38
as empirical research suggests that the Internet plays an important role in facilitating and
mobilizing individuals to extremist violence.
39
The acknowledgement of the role of the Internet
in mobilizing individuals to violent extremism has motivated multiple federal law enforcement
agencies (e.g., the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security,
and the National Counterterrorism Center) to develop laundry lists of precursor behaviors linked
to violent extremist outcomes.
40
Among the concerns in this regard are a range of online
activities such as engaging others in ideological discussions, demonstrating ideological outbursts,
and seeking to join an extremist group that promotes violence to address perceived grievances,
among many other indicators.
41
But regardless of the ongoing efforts by law enforcement and
intelligence agencies to develop a meaningful set of violent extremist mobilization indicators to
EXAMINING ONLINE INDICATORS OF EXTREMISM
7
identify credible threats, there is little empirical evidence about the presence of these indicators
in online extremist communities. Most of the research in this area rely on anecdotal accounts or
case studies to better understand mobilization efforts in online communities. Indeed, there is a
need to empirically examine whether mobilizations indicators are present in online spaces known
for facilitating violent extremism.
Current Study
Data and Sample
Online postings from the open access sections of Iron March and Fascist Forge were analyzed
for the current study. Both forums served as online hubs for neo-Nazis, neo-fascists and white
supremacists to connect with the like-minded and for the purpose of spreading RWE ideologies
and engaging in real-world violence.
42
Iron March, for example, appeared online in 2011 and
functioned as a key online discussion forum for individuals to connect and communicate with
others who subscribed to violent RWE ideologies.
43
The forum gained notoriety for its members’
online advocacy of violence and acts of violence carried out by them.
44
For example, Iron March
hosted a number of members whose goal was to recruit from the U.S. military for the purpose of
“destroying liberal democracy through a fascist paramilitary insurgency.”
45
Most notably, they
later formed the Atomwaffen Division, a far-right terrorist group linked to a series of murders in
the U.S.,
46
with Iron March being crucial to the formation of the group.
47
Anti-hate watch-
organizations also uncovered that Iron March was linked to several other violent RWE groups,
including Patriot Front and Vanguard America in the U.S. and National Action in the United
Kingdom (U.K.), among others.
48
While the forum went offline in 2017 for undisclosed reasons,
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two years later personal details about Iron March users were publicly leaked online, which
included forum usernames with email addresses, IP addresses, and forum posts.
49
In 2018, the Fascist Forge discussion forum went online to “fill the void by the takedown
of Iron March”, according to one of the site founders who posted the message shortly after the
forum went online.
50
Anti-hate watch-groups have similarly described the forum as a remodeled
version of Iron March for a small community of hardline neo-Nazis to advocate terrorism.
51
Such
a small community is likely the result of what Davey and colleagues
52
described as a ‘multi-stage
application process’, wherein forum administrators vetted new users before giving them access
to post on the platform and visit private channels. This was done to ensure that only those who
were committed to the extremist cause were participating in the platform and most likely to weed
out potential infiltrators or non-conformists.
53
As part of this vetting process, new members were
first required to introduce themselves, outline why they registered, and discuss what they hoped
to accomplish by entering the forum, among other things.
54
New members were then encouraged
to visit the ‘learning center’ and read a list of texts that were explicitly supremacist, including
writing from RWE ideologies David Lane, Adolf Hitler, and George Lincoln Rockwell, all in
preparation for an ‘entrance exam.’
55
Those who gained additional access to the platform were
then subject to strong content moderation, where users could be kicked off the platform for
various reasons, including ‘support for Semitic desert religions.’
56
Regardless of the platform’s differences to Iron March, Fascist Forge, like its
predecessor, facilitated violent discussions that were steeped in RWE ideologies, including calls
for direct action such as a race war and targeting public infrastructure.
57
Within this digital space
was also a library for would-be extreme right-wing terrorist cells, which featured a guide on
militaristic tactics for ethnic cleansing, manuals for making homemade weapons, and
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instructions on how to dispose of a body.
58
Also included in this space were descriptions about
the most effective weapons to use during urban combat as well as discussions about how to pull
off an assassination.
59
Most importantly, a number of violent extremists were linked to Fascist
Forge, similar to participants in Iron March, including a 16-year old convicted of planning a
terror attack against synagogues in the U.K to trigger a “race war”, who was a contributor to the
forum.
60
Two other British members of Fascist Forge who were recently charged with a
combined 25 terrorism offences are currently going through in the youth court system.
61
In
March 2018, the web service companies hosting Fascist Forge took the site offline, in part
because of platform’s link to violent extremism, but the site came back online using Cloudflare.
62
Today, the site is offline for reasons that are unknown, a situation similar to Iron March.
Data collection and sampling efforts proceeded in two stages. First, all open source
content on Iron March and Fascist Forge were captured using a custom-written computer
program that was designed to collect vast amounts of information online.
63
Here the Iron March
data included 195,212 posts made by 1,448 authors between September 2011 and October 2017
while the Fascist Forge data included 2,933 posts made by 405 authors between May 2018 and
November 2019.
64
Second, a random sample of 2,000 postings was retrieved from Iron March
and 2,000 posts from Fascist Forge (n = 4,000 posts). Our sample is much larger than what is
typical in similar studies of these platforms, as most code far fewer posts in proportion.
65
Coding Schema
Given that very little is empirically known about the online presence of extremist indicators that
make up violent RWE forums such as Iron March and Fascist Forge, a reasonable starting place
for this type of exploratory analysis was to draw from a generic set of codes related to RWE
EXAMINING ONLINE INDICATORS OF EXTREMISM
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ideologies, personal grievances, and violent mobilization efforts. To quantify the appearance of
these discussions in each violent RWE forum, we used content analysis techniques to code the
data. Six coders independently analyzed a series of posts from the sample of 4,000 messages,
with the unit of analysis being the content of each post. Each coder was assigned with a random
sample of messages from each forum, and all of the coded observations
66
were aggregated into
one file.
Several strategies were used to ensure reliability in our coding. First, the codebook was
interactively developed, meaning that the entire research team – including the six coders –
discussed the inclusion criteria for each code, followed by a pretest of the coding schema on a
sample of posts where we made adjustments to the schema accordingly. The second involved
systematic training, wherein the lead author selected a sample of posts for the six coders to
analyze, followed by a dialogue between the lead author and coders about the schema and
subsequent training on each code. Lastly, the lead author reviewed each of the coded cases for
accuracy, followed by a discussion of the coded content with the research team, and posts were
recoded where necessary. For more on the codebook, see Appendix A.
Ideology posts were coded (0 = no, 1 = yes) based on the use of comments that detailed
or referenced a known RWE ideology. Here we were guided by the view that RWE ideology –
like all extremist ideologiesis structured on the belief that the success and survival of the in-
group is inseparable from the negative acts of an out-group and, in turn, adherents are willing to
assume both an offensive and defensive stance in the name of the success and survival of the in-
group.
67
RWE ideology is thus defined as a racially, ethnically, and/or sexually defined
nationalism, which is typically framed in terms of white power and/or white identity (i.e., the in-
group) that is grounded in xenophobic and exclusionary understandings of the perceived threats
EXAMINING ONLINE INDICATORS OF EXTREMISM
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posed by some combination of non-whites, Jews, Muslims, immigrants, refugees, members of
the LGBTQ community, and feminists (i.e., the out-group(s)).
68
The codebook for expressed
ideologies was developed by drawing from the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC)
69
identified RWE ideologies, which included anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ, anti-Muslim, anti-
government, Christian Identity, anti-Semitic, male supremacy, neo-folkish, and alt-right
ideologies.
70
In addition, anti-Black and anti-Latinx ideologies were included in the codebook, as
research suggests that Black and Latinx communities have been primary opponents of the RWE
movement as well as primary targets of much of their hateful sentiment.
71
Research also suggests
that anti-Black and anti-Latinx ideologies are widely discussed in RWE spaces online.
72
Lastly,
conspiratorial posts were included in the codebook, as research indicates that RWE ideologies
are oftentimes steeped in conspiracy theories, which oftentimes involve a grave threat to national
sovereignty and/or personal liberty, among other concerns.
73
The codebook for expressed
ideologies included 12 binary codes.
Grievance posts (0 = no, 1 = yes) were coded based on the posters’ use of language that
were expressive of their personal grievances. This codebook was derived from a codebook used
by Gill and colleagues
74
and Clemmow and colleagues
75
to examine motivations and antecedent
behaviors of lone-actor terrorists. Grievances in this regard included loss of employment, poor
work performance, problems with intimate relationships, problems with personal relationships,
death in family, death of friend, health, experience with the educational system, experience with
the criminal justice system, being a target of prejudice or unfairness, being a victim of verbal
assault, being a victim of physical assault, and being socially isolated. The codebook for
expressed grievances included 14 binary codes.
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Violent extremist mobilization posts (0 = no, 1 = yes) were coded on the basis of
language suggesting that posters were preparing to engage in extremist violence and/or made
efforts to mobilize others to extremist violence. This codebook was derived from the FBI’s
‘Homegrown Violent Extremist Mobilization Indicators’,
76
which included the following
indicators: end of life preparations, planning a trip abroad, permission to engage in violence,
seeking to recruit others to mobilize, asking how to purchase/how to obtain illegal material,
posting of terrorist icons, expresses goodbyes, acceptance of violence as a necessary means to
achieve ideological goals, attempts to radicalize others/pushing others to action, involved in a
group that promotes violence to rectify grievances, virtual simulations of attack, behavioral
change, new sense of purpose, encourages violence, asks for information on specific targets, asks
for technical expertise, violent and ideological outburst, blames external factors for failures,
unstable mental state, operational security and ways to evade law enforcement, praise of past
successful or attempted events, and inappropriate use of doctrines. The codebook for violent
extremist mobilization indicators included 23 binary codes.
Results
The results are divided into three sections: a comparison of the proportion of posts that fall into
each of the three categories (i.e., ideologies, grievances, and violent extremist mobilization
efforts), both within and across forums.
77
Quotes from the data are presented where appropriate
to demonstrate the tenor of postings. All online comments were quoted verbatim.
Expressed Ideologies
While a relatively large proportion of ideological posts were identified in both violent RWE
forums, Fascist Forge contained a much larger proportion of ideological posts than those
EXAMINING ONLINE INDICATORS OF EXTREMISM
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observed in Iron March (77.90% and 30.50%, respectively). However, there were a range of
posts targeting specific RWE adversary groups both within and across the forums, which is
described in Table 1.
Table 1. Presentation of ideological posts across forums.
Iron March
Fascist Forge
Posts
Percent
Posts
Anti-immigrant
17
0.85
63
Anti-Semitic
102
5.10
222
Anti-Black
79
3.95
162
Anti-LGBTQ
87
4.35
70
Anti-Muslim
34
1.70
100
Anti-Latinx
25
1.25
105
Anti-government
23
1.15
80
Christian Identity
37
1.85
60
Male supremacy
20
1.00
49
Neo-folkish
27
1.35
88
Alt-right
51
2.55
297
Conspiratorial
108
5.40
262
Total
610
30.50
1558
Specifically, anti-Semitic sentiment was among the most frequently observed across forums,
appearing in 5.10% (n = 102) of all posts in the Iron March sample and 11.10% (n = 222) in the
Fascist Forge sample. The following are but a few examples of the anti-Semitic posts that made
up a large proportion of the ideological content in the data:
…we suffer greatly from jews, we feel daily. They are our main enemies in
politics and most dangerous in economy. All jews were before in capture of one
nation, now are all nations in capture of jews. (Iron March post)
Yes, our people have degenerated. They are being led into the wrong path by the Jew.
They have been poisoned since young with jewish lies. That doesn’t make them any less
of my kin. I hate that they have degenerated, and it saddens me, because I love my Race.
EXAMINING ONLINE INDICATORS OF EXTREMISM
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Yes, some of them are irredeemable, and can only expect death. But I firmly believe that
the jewish veil of lies can be taken off of the eyes of most, so they can see the truth. Some
may need a strong shaking, strife, to wake them from their lethargy. (Fascist Forge post)
Nationalism is a delusional state to be in right now. Every nation is a disgusting, kike-run
shithole which can only be redeemed through total systematic collapse. There is nothing
to be proud of. (Fascist Forge post)
Additionally, anti-Black and anti-Muslim made up a moderate proportion of posts targeting
adversary groups in Fascist Forge (8.10% and 5.00%, respectively) compared to those in Iron
March (3.95% and 1.70%, respectively), and so too did the proportion of anti-Latinx sentiment
across both platforms (5.25% and 1.25%, respectively). Anti-LGBTQ sentiment, on the other
hand, was slightly more prevalent in Iron March (4.35%) compared to Fascist Forge (3.50%), but
anti-government sentiment was more prevalent in Fascist Forge (4.00%) compared to Iron March
(1.15%). However, anti-immigrant sentiment – which is expressed below – was far less common
in both Iron March and Fascist Forge (0.85% and 3.15%, respectively).
I would completely close the borders for years; and after the population settled
down a bit, maybe after 10 years or so, I would re-open to selective immigration
and have a cap on yearly immigration based on whatever we came to understand
as our population cap. These immigrants would also be forced to assimilate. Our
language, our ethics, our morality, our religion. (Iron March post)
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Greetings, I am an American white male with experience with firearms, programming,
fishing, and propaganda writing. I am NOT a fascist, however, I am willing to work with
fascists in opposing communists and their allies such as communists and immigrants.
(Fascist Forge post)
Christian Identity posts also made up a relatively small proportion of the ideological posts across
forums, with 1.85% (n = 37) of all posts in the Iron March sample and 3.00% (n = 60) of all
posts in the Fascist Forge sample involving Christian identity language. As these two posts best
captured this sentiment:
Black Sun occultism is simply another form of Satanism/Luciferianism and is therefore
doomed to failure; the only God who will purge degeneracy from the Earth is Jesus
Christ. (Iron March post)
The white masses should be afraid of the wrath of god for their treason against Aryan
culture, not made to hate non-Aryan ways, that’ll never happen. (Fascist Forge post)
In addition, there was a relatively small proportion of posts related to male supremacy in
Iron March and Fascist Forge (1.00% and 2.45%, respectively), with this content reflecting the
following sentiment: “Woman […] are only tools for breeding (and toys), anyone who says
otherwise is kidding themselves. They are also good for raising kids for a few years, of course”
(Iron March post). Neo-folkish posts were also infrequent in both samples, but a higher
proportion of these posts were found in Fascist Forge (49 posts, 4.40%) compared to Iron March
(27 posts, 1.35%). As but one example of this discourse:
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They are systematically trying to erode the heritage our ancestors fought for. They
know they will never succeed until our pure blood lines are diluted into
extinction, so they try to expedite their agenda by promoting the myth of equality
through, multiculturalism, multiracialism, attacking gender roles and any other
forms of human degradation. Their only hope of success is to create a docile
population than can be enslaved and controlled by their system. This system has
to be destroyed. It is imperative that we educate our people in the Truth, the
Natural Order and the formation an Organic State, where future generations of
white children can thrive and be even better than the one before. (Fascist Forge
post)
Similarly, a larger proportion of alt-right posts were identified in Fascist Forge (297 posts,
14.85%) than those in Iron March (51 posts, 1.35%), with these posts among the most frequently
observed ideological posts in Fascist Forge. Interestingly, though, is that a majority of these alt-
right posts, both on Fascist Forge and Iron March, included negative discussions about the alt-
right. The following are a few examples that summarize these discussions:
Alt-Right - Too unorganized and useless to bother me, embarrassments to me. (Iron
March post)
I have never embraced the alt right label. We are not alternate we are RIGHT. There is no
right or left in politics, there is only right and wrong. (Iron March post)
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…I was once a liberal then for a while I was a Marxist then I became AnCom after a
while I became a conservative and not long after I became an alt right shitlord not until
recently have I truly understood the fascist worldview. (Fascist Forge post)
Alt right are Jew infested and subverted. (Fascist Forge post)
Lastly, conspiratorial posts were among the most frequently observed in both samples,
appearing in 5.40% (n = 108) of all posts in the Iron March sample and 13.10% (n = 262) in the
Fascist Forge sample. Much of this sentiment was cemented in anti-Semitic discourse, wherein
Jews were labeled as “the source of all evil”, “the spawn of the Devil himself”, conspiring to
extinguish the white race and breeding them out of existence – through “Jew-controlled”
government, financial institutions, and media (i.e., Zionist Occupation Government (ZOG)
conspiracy). As a number of posters described it:
The Truth is under a calculated attack by a corrupt system, that is trying to brainwash our
people through constant anti-white propaganda, fallacies, myths and the denial of the
Truth, while prompting their modern worldview. Our youth are been indoctrinated into
the beliefs of this corrupt jew run machine, by attending their so called academic
institutes, only to be manipulated by the false ideologies of liars and idiot philosophers
These cesspools of corruption spew nothing but the rhetoric of their jew masters.
Unaware of the malice by this corrupt system, our people and their children are
encouraged and lured into using, and then become dependent on systems technology and
devices, thinking they are helpful tools to educate, but in fact these devices are are
produced and pre-prograned by the system to disseminate their distorted facts, false
EXAMINING ONLINE INDICATORS OF EXTREMISM
18
information and lying propaganda. They are systematically trying to erode the heritage
our ancestors fought for. (Fascist Forge post)
Since 1945, the West and any sort of semblance of it has been dead and not worth saving
whatsoever, the true Aryan man was swept aside into the underground only multiplying
his racial stock in hopes that they will continue the struggle against the Jewish financial
world order, in fact Germany and all of Europe was bombed to the stone age and back,
there is barely anything that isn’t modern fucking garbage there and I assure you, it isn't
getting any better any time, it is only further decaying. At least Hitler could call himself a
German Nationalist because there was some semblance of hope left for the West back
then and a national revival was imminent. (Fascist Forge post)
The ideologies of the modern world that are promoted by lying jews and their con-men,
have mutated the Natural Order beyond recognition. Their warped beliefs and designer
laws only serve their agenda of enrichment and self-sadisfaction. Their ultimate goal is to
eradicate the truth along with us by encouraging the dilution of our bloodlines, and any
activity to speed the erosion of our race. This is unacceptable, and an unrealistic future
for our people. (Fascist Forge post)
Expressed Grievances
Although a relatively small proportion of personal grievance posts were observed in each violent
RWE forum, a much larger proportion of these posts were identified in Fascist Forge compared
to Iron March (see Table 2).
EXAMINING ONLINE INDICATORS OF EXTREMISM
19
Table 2. Presentation of grievance posts across forums.
Iron March
Fascist Forge
Posts
Percent
Posts
Loss of employment
0
-
3
Work performance
0
-
2
Intimate relationships
0
-
17
Personal relationships
0
-
65
Death in the family
1
0.05
2
Death of a friend
1
0.05
1
Health
2
0.10
12
Educational system
8
0.40
12
Criminal justice system
1
0.05
5
Target of an act of prejudice or
unfairness
0
-
33
Victim of verbal assault
0
-
8
Victim of physical assault
1
0.05
5
Victim of sexual assault
0
-
0
Socially isolated
0
-
30
Total
14
0.70
195
Furthermore, the type of grievance posts that we observed were noticeably different across the
forums. Iron March, for example, contained a much narrower range of expressed grievances
compared to the observed grievance posts on Fascist Forge. There was also no mention of eight
of the grievance categories in the Iron March sample (i.e., loss of employment, work
performance, intimate relationships, personal relationships, target of prejudice, victim of verbal
or sexual assaults, and social isolation). Instead, for a relatively large proportion of the grievance
categories, there were just one post containing a grievance in the Iron March sample, with
grievances in this regard included death in a family, death of a friend, concerns with the criminal
justice system, and being a victim of physical assault. The following are two examples of the
posts with this sentiment:
Both my uncle and grandmother won’t make it into the next year. Damn cancer.
All ready had 2 funerals this year. (Iron March post)
EXAMINING ONLINE INDICATORS OF EXTREMISM
20
Long story. Didn’t even really do anything worth prison, a buddy did something and
blamed it on me. The sentence for the worst charge carries maximum of 12 1/2 years. I
don’t want to put details on the internet or anything because they could use that against
me too. Personally I think it was because I told the cop he needed a warrant to search my
stuff and that was his way of retaliating. But my friend who screwed me over wrote a
statement against me when he got busted doing something else in hopes that he would.
(Iron March post)
A very small proportion of grievance posts about health were also identified in Iron March (2
posts, 0.10%), which reflected the following post: “Something’s wrong with my leg. My left calf
just started cramping up before I even woke up yesterday morning, and it hurts to move it even
slightly. I have no idea how this happened.” (Iron March post). Lastly, grievance posts about the
education system were among the most frequently observed in Iron March, appearing in 0.40%
(n = 8) of all posts in the Iron March sample. The following are a few examines that summarize
these discussions:
In schools, whites will be disciplined more or minorities will be disciplined less
(latter is more likely. I’ve already heard anecdotally in some of those horror
stories written by people who claim to have been teachers in American schools
that were rezoned to integrate large black populations that this was the case
already. They would have to wait to expel certain blacks for being a constant
problem and expel whites at the drop of the hat in order to keep an acceptable
ratio of blacks to whites that would be sent to the school for troubled kids. If this
EXAMINING ONLINE INDICATORS OF EXTREMISM
21
is true I feel bad for the white kids that got unjustly fucked by the system. (Iron
March post)
You were just expelled from your old school kek. I’m not trying to advance my
record to 3 schools kicked out. That would mean I have to go to a residential and
live with shit skins. I’d rather not. (Iron March post)
I had an english 102 class where the syllabus had marxist analysis of literature as
one of the requirements and I cannot tell you how fast I wanted to leave the
classroom. (Iron March post)
In contrast, not only were more grievance posts identified in Fascist Forge compared to
Iron March (195 posts and 14 posts, respectively), there was a wider range of grievance posts
with some frequency expressed in Fascist Forge compared to its counterpart. Here, the most
frequently observed grievance posts in Fascist Forge related to personal relationships (65 posts,
3.25%) and being the target of an act of prejudice (33 posts, 1.65%), none of which were
observed in the Iron March sample. Grievance posts about personal relationships in Fascist Forge
oftentimes involved personal disputes between forum users, which is reflected the following
discourse:
You sound like a typical dusty, stupid, simple-minded baby boomer. Your current
beliefs have very little in common with anyone here. However, you’re more than
welcome to stay if you're willing to listen and allow your worldview to develop.
EXAMINING ONLINE INDICATORS OF EXTREMISM
22
Quite a few of us have started as typical conservative/anti-
communist/traditionalist type people. (Fascist Forge post)
No! Be a real Fascist! We do not want white nationalists here. (Fascist Forge post)
“So you banned three of the most active members on the forum?” Yeah. I banned two for
actively promoting race mixing. […] If you want to stick your dick in a mud, go ahead,
your ‘vices’ are your own. But there are no excuses for and zero tolerance of anyone
promoting race mixing on this forum. Those who do reveal themselves for what they
truly are. (Fascist Forge post)
Grievance posts in Fascist Forge about being the target of an act of prejudice oftentimes involved
anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, which is reflected in the following discourse:
Its really becoming hard to keep my cool. I am so sick and tired of the ZOG doing
all it can to bring us to our knees. Everyone is so free in this country. So free to do
anything they please. Except for proud white men. Ive never wanted to put my
hands on someone so badly. Whats funny, I am not a very tough guy and not that
violent. But more and more a fire is burning hotter and brighter in me. (Fascist
Forge post)
Never in history has the jew world order existed as today. These kikes have been
building their world empire and simultaneously pushing the white race into
extinction for centuries now. (Fascist Forge post)
EXAMINING ONLINE INDICATORS OF EXTREMISM
23
…we must make it clear right here and right now that the [white] race has gone
under and even ourselves are not anywhere near ideal racially, for it will take
thousands of years to correct this racial mess we're in and create the racial ideal,
and to do that, we are not only going to need a global Imperium, but we need to
STOP putting any sort of faith in these dead nations, full of mostly lemmings who
are self indulging, living for the now, racial BASTARDS! Since 1945, the West
and any sort of semblance of it has been dead and not worth saving whatsoever,
the true Aryan man was swept aside into the underground only multiplying his
racial stock in hopes that they will continue the struggle against the Jewish
financial world order. (Fascist Forge post)
It is also interesting to uncover that grievance posts about social isolation (n = 30, 1.50%) were
mentioned with some frequency in Fascist Forge. Here, discussions about social isolation tended
to reflect the following sentiment:
Hello, I am one of the few radicals of New Jersey. I found this while looking for
an alternative spot to talk about politics, as Discord is heavily regulated, and Iron
march has been down since 2016 (I believe). I decided to join and plan on sticking
around because I finally found a place to talk with like-minded people about
politics without being looked at like a monster. (Fascist Forge post)
A number of users in the forum highlighted how they joined Fascist Forge to “…meet others
who share the world view […] and expand my understanding of Fascism” (Fascist Forge post),
as one poster put it, as well as “…to better organize and contact people in my area for meetups
EXAMINING ONLINE INDICATORS OF EXTREMISM
24
and the like” (Fascist Forge post). Much of the discussions about feeling social isolation were
mentioned in users’ introductory posts to the forums.
Violent Extremist Mobilization Efforts
In Table 3, we present the violent mobilization indicators by violent RWE forum, which show
interesting variations in the types of mobilization efforts observed both within and across forums.
Similar to how we found that the number of grievance and ideological posts captured in Fascist
Forge were greater compared to those in Iron March, many more mobilization indicators were
observed in Fascist Forge than its counterpart. In particular, we identified 21 of 23 mobilization
indicators in the Fascist Force posts (91.30%) compared to 12 of 23 indicators in the Iron March
posts (52.17%).
EXAMINING ONLINE INDICATORS OF EXTREMISM
25
Table 3. Presentation of violent extremist mobilization posts across forums.
Iron March
Fascist Forge
Posts
Percent
Posts
Percent
End of life preparations
1
0.05
15
0.75
Seeking help to travel abroad
1
0.05
0
-
Planning a trip abroad
3
0.15
1
0.05
Seeking permission to engage in violence
7
0.35
51
2.55
Seeking to recruit others to mobilize
7
0.35
108
5.40
Asking to purchase/how to obtain illegal material
0
-
2
0.10
Includes terrorist icons/flags/prominent figures/symbols
0
-
31
1.55
Expressing goodbyes
0
-
0
-
Acceptance of violence as a necessary means to achieve
ideological goals
14
0.70
95
4.75
Attempting to radicalize others/pushing others to action
8
0.40
102
5.10
Involved in a group that promotes violence to rectify
grievances
2
0.10
56
2.80
Provides virtual simulations of an attack/assault
0
-
13
0.65
Discusses behavioral change
3
0.15
95
4.75
Linguistic expressions that reflect new sense of purpose
3
0.15
76
3.80
Advocates/encourages violence
78
3.90
112
5.60
Asks for information about specific targets
0
-
2
0.10
Asks for technical expertise
0
-
19
0.95
Contains a violent, ideologically motivated outburst
6
0.30
36
1.80
Blames external factors for failure in school, career, or
relationships
0
-
3
0.15
Display an unstable mental state (e.g., mental health,
derailing)
20
1.00
40
2.00
Discusses operational security and asks about ways to
evade law enforcement
0
-
16
0.80
Praises past successful/attempted attacks
0
-
9
0.45
Inappropriate use of what an individual perceives as
doctrine to manipulate others
0
-
17
0.85
Total
153
7.65
899
44.95
The volume of these mobilization posts was also greater in Fascist Forge than in Iron March.
Specifically, the number of posts in Fascist Forge about a specific mobilization effort was greater
in 20 of the 24 (83.33%) categories compared to similar posts in Iron March. For example, only
seven of the Iron March posts included efforts to recruit others to mobilize compared to the 108
posts in Fascist Forge. Postings in this regard reflected the following sentiment:
EXAMINING ONLINE INDICATORS OF EXTREMISM
26
Hello, I’m new to this forum, I’m still a Fascist in learning so I hope that i can find things
on this website that can teach me more about the worldview, I understand the basics and
currently in the process of reading SIEGE, I’m from south florida hops to possibly
organize other likeminded individuals. (Fascist Forge post)
I heard about Fascist Forge on a server on telegram which is owned by Feuerkrieg
Division so i looked it up. Would like to be connected with other fascists and see if there
are any fascist cells in Croatia that i may join. If you refer to real life skills i am pretty fit
so can run alot, i like to do real life actions like posting posters and meeting with other
fascists to organise ourselves. (Fascist Forge post)
no race war? its happening right now. open your eyes. every god damn mud race is being
glorified. while they sell homosexuality to our sons and tell our daughters they will be
happier with niggers. theyre not gunning us down in the streets but theyre breeding us
out. […] wake the fuck up. look at europe? look at america? we are losing our culture to
people who dont belong with whites. we need to god damn rise up and unite. (Fascist
Forge post)
In addition, just eight of the Iron March posts included efforts to radicalize others and push them
to action compared to the 102 posts in Fascist Forge. Such mobilizing efforts were best captured
in the following posts:
If you wanted to disrupt you could go lonewolf on a zog mouthpiece, like a
celebrity. Not like killing a bunch of nigs that don’t matter to anyone. This is a
EXAMINING ONLINE INDICATORS OF EXTREMISM
27
good idea. The psychological effects would be astounding; not only would it
shock and strike fear into the hearts of the lemming masses (especially if the
target was iced on live TV), but it would also disrupt the whole distract and sedate
technique the System so heavily relies on to pacify the population. (Fascist Forge
post)
…where are we going to be a few years down the road if we do not fight back and
disinfect the fucking parasites from our homelands? (Fascist Forge post)
…we need to destroy the multiracial ethos of North American society... and wake the
white masses up from their addiction to modern, liberal-democratic life. At the end of the
day, this can only be done through violence. (Fascist Forge post)
Similarly, far fewer mobilization posts were observed in Iron March that included discussions
about accepting violence for the purpose of achieving ideological goals compared to Fascist
Forge (14 posts and 95 posts, respectively).
It is also worth noting the most frequently observed mobilization indicator in each violent
RWE forum. The top mobilization indicator in Iron March and Fascist Forge was encouraging
violence (78 posts and 112 posts, respectively). Interestingly, posts that encouraged violence
were substantially greater in Iron March than all other mobilization indicators in that forum and,
to a lesser extent, mobilization efforts in Fascist Forge. The following are a few examples that
capture sentiment expressed here:
EXAMINING ONLINE INDICATORS OF EXTREMISM
28
It's this simple. If our people can not protect themselves, if they so willingly march to
their own destruction, they do NOT deserve to survive or live. They willing choose this
year after year. Burying their heads in the sand like the cowards they are (Iron March
post)
If we wanted to, hypothetically, every single one of us could go full McVeigh and start
dispatching political and economic targets today, helping build the social tension that will
accelerate the collapse of the System. But we don’t, even though it’s completely feasible
and would probably be a grand ol’ time. So, what's your reason? Why haven
t you popped yet? (Fascist Forge post)
Be radical, have principles, be absolute, be that which the bourgeoisie calls an extremist
[…] never abandon the principle of struggle - Julius Evola. We do not argue with those
who disagree with us, we destroy them - Benito Mussolini. Those who want to live, let
them fight, and those who do not want to fight in this world of eternal struggle do not
deserve to live -Adolf Hitler. (Fascist Forge post)
Lastly, the other top mobilization indicators observed in Iron March included displaying an
unstable mental state (20 posts, 1.00%) and acceptance of violence as a necessary means to
achieve ideological goals (14 posts, 0.70%). By comparison, top mobilization indicators in
Fascist Forge included discussing behavioral change (95 posts, 4.75%) and linguistic expressions
that reflect a new sense of purpose (76 posts, 3.80%).
EXAMINING ONLINE INDICATORS OF EXTREMISM
29
Discussion
This study quantified the existence of extremist ideologies, grievances, and violent extremist
mobilization efforts found within two of the most notoriously violent RWE forums, Iron March
and Fascist Forge. Here we examined the posting patterns both within and across a sample of
forum postings (n = 4,000). Several conclusions can be drawn from this study.
First, a large proportion of ideological posts targeting the out-group were identified in
both violent RWE forums, which comes as little surprise, given that previous reports have found
that both extremist platforms contain a sizable amount of explicit and overt white supremacist
activity targeting the in-group’s perceived adversaries.
78
The results of the current study also
suggest that anti-Semitic conspiracy theories were among the most frequently observed
ideological discourse in both online forums, which aligns with empirical research suggesting that
anti-Semitic conspiracy discussions are rooted in RWE ideologies
79
and in much of the RWE
rhetoric expressed online, including in RWE discussion forums
80
, social media sites,
81
and fringe
platforms.
82
Interestingly, alt-right posts were also among the most frequently observed
ideological posts across both platforms, with a majority of the posts including negative sentiment
towards the alt-right. This finding is supported by previous research which found that Iron
March
83
and Fascist Forge
84
users opposed the alt-right and took active steps to distinguish
themselves from alt-right adherents because they were seen as the mainstream and non-violent
white supremacist movement. But perhaps most surprisingly is that Fascist Forge contained a
much larger proportion of ideological posts than those observed in Iron March. Previous research
found that the ideological formation on Fascist Forge was narrow
85
and that users on Fascist
Forge were more ideological homogenous than those on Iron March.
86
Although the focus of the
current study was not on forum users’ self-declared ideology
87
or their introductory posts and
EXAMINING ONLINE INDICATORS OF EXTREMISM
30
subsequent responses
88
similar to previous research in this space, our findings suggest that forum
users discuss a wide range of extremist ideologies as well as post a larger volume of messages
against the out-group on Fascist Forge – and much more so than on Iron March.
Second, a much larger proportion of personal grievances were observed in Fascist Forge
than in Iron March. There were also substantial differences in the scope of the grievances
expressed across both forums, with many more grievance types observed in Fascist Forge than
its counterpart. Furthermore, the most prominent grievances that were observed across forums
were distinct from one another; the most pressing grievances in Fascist Forge related to personal
relationships and being the target of an act of prejudice, while the most pressing grievances in
Iron March related to the educational system and general health. More importantly, there was an
especially small proportion of personal grievances observed in both discussion forum in general.
This is a noteworthy finding because it suggests that violent RWE forums – such as Iron March
and Fascist Forge – may not be online spaces for extreme right-wing adherents to express their
personal grievances, as has been found to be the case in generic (non-violent) RWE forums.
89
Yet while Iron March and Fascist Forge have been largely understood as gathering places for the
most extreme right-wing adherents – who only support the most extreme ideologies – to discuss
and promote a race war
90
, the extent to which users’ personal grievances are expressed in these
violent forums require further exploration.
Third and perhaps most notably was the extent to which violent extremist mobilization
efforts were observed in both RWE forums in general and in Fascist Forge in particular. Much of
the sentiment that we observed in the forums, especially those in Fascist Forge, suggested that
posters were preparing to engage in extremist violence or were making efforts to mobilize others
to extremist violence. Interestingly, we also found that advocating and encouraging violence was
EXAMINING ONLINE INDICATORS OF EXTREMISM
31
the top mobilization indicator in both Iron March and Fascist Forge, with the proportion of these
posts increasing in the latter forum. This is an indicator that law enforcement and intelligence
agencies should look further into as they examine these online communities. Previous reports
have uncovered similar discussions in both forums, where it was common for forum users to
make direct, violent calls to take action – and all in the name of their extremist cause.
91
Together,
our assessment of the extremist indicators observed in Iron March and Fascist Forge suggest that
the latter of the two forums contain the more potentially threatening posting patterns that law
enforcement and intelligence agencies may deem worthy of further investigation. To some
extent, this finding comes as a surprise because, on the one hand, previous research found that
Iron March consisted of a higher number of potentially high-risk posting trajectories compared to
those in Fascist Forge.
92
On the other hand, reports suggest that Fascist Forge was structured
around a ‘multi-stage application process’ wherein forum administrators vetted new users before
allowing them to post on the platform. Here new users were required to introduce themselves and
explain why they registered to the site, as well as read a list of extremist literature and then
complete an ‘entrance exam’ before participating in the space.
93
This was done to ensure that
only the committed were participating in the forum, and not potential infiltrators or non-
conformists.
94
Posters on Fascist Forge were also subject to relatively strong content moderation
on the site, wherein users who posted content that did not align with the extremist views of site
moderators were banned from the site.
95
This may have impacted the content posted on the site
and the results of the current study. In short, posters on Fascist Forge may have been concerned
with being banned from the platform if the content that they posted was not extreme or violent
enough. Further, it is reasonable to assume that a large proportion of posters on Fascist Forge
were also posters on its predecessor, given that the purpose of Fascist Forge was to “fill the void
EXAMINING ONLINE INDICATORS OF EXTREMISM
32
by the takedown of Iron March” and “continue where they left off”, according to a post made by
a Fascist Forge founding members when the site first went online. In turn, it may be case that
users who posted on Fascist Forge were more extreme or radicalized than posters on Iron March
as a result of their previous involvement in Iron March before it went offline for undisclosed
reasons.
96
While our study highlights an increase in violent extremist mobilization efforts from
one violent RWE forum to its successor, this finding requires further exploration.
This study offers a first step in quantifying the presence of extremist ideologies,
grievances, and violent mobilization efforts in Iron March and Fascist Forge which showed an
escalation in extremist content from one RWE forum to its replacement forum, but there are
several limitations that may inform future research. First, although we were able to consistently
capture an array of indicators of extremism – including ideological indicators – across two
prominent violent RWE discussion forums, our study did not include an assessment of users’
self-declared ideologies. Instead, we quantified the extent to which users discussed extremist
ideologies in the RWE platforms rather than subscribed to a particular RWE ideology. Having
said that, the extent to which forum users in the current study adhered to a particular extremist
ideology versus discussed an ideology remains unclear. Future research is therefore needed to
unpack which forum users identify with specific extremist ideologies.
A second limitation of this study pertains to the sample. To quantify the extent to which
online indicators of extremism were found in violent RWE forums, our sample was limited to
just two online platforms. Although the sample was sizable, future research should quantify
extremist indicators across a range of platform types. This could include a comparison of violent
RWE forums with generic (non-violent) RWE forums, or a comparison with mainstream social
media sites, fringe platforms, and digital applications. Such an analysis would not only provide
EXAMINING ONLINE INDICATORS OF EXTREMISM
33
practitioners and policymakers with much need insight into the extent to which indicators of
extremism are unique to violent extremist spaces, but whether such indicators span across online
spaces that facilitate extremism more generally, or whether certain platforms have unique
functions for facilitating extremism.
Third, we did not examine the posting patterns of the same users across RWE forums but
instead we compared – in aggregate – the postings of users on one forum to the postings of users
on a second forum where they may or may not have been the same. Future research is therefore
needed to assess the extent to which different users operate across various platforms as well as
well as how, if at all, users’ expressed ideologies, grievances, and violent mobilization efforts
migrate between platforms. Future research would also benefit from the inclusion of a temporal
component in this regard. Temporal analyses may be able to effectively capture an escalation in
expressed extremist ideologies, grievances, and mobilization efforts both within and across
platforms. This in turn may provide law enforcement and intelligence agencies with insight into
the evolution of extremist indicators online and whether specific patterns in posting activity
warrant future investigation. This may also put practitioners and policymakers in a better
position to identify online discussions or user networks that are credible threat (i.e., those who
engage in violence offline), thus informing future risk factor frameworks. Officials may also
have valuable intelligence, informed by online trends, to put them on higher alert on particular
threats and intervene where necessary.
Notes
1
Maura Conway, Ryan Scrivens and Logan Macnair, “Right-Wing Extremists’ Persistent Online
Presence: History and Contemporary Trends,” The International Centre for Counter-Terrorism –
The Hague 10(2019): 1-24; Thomas J. Holt, Joshua D. Freilich, and Steven M. Chermak,
“Examining the Online Expression of Ideology among Far-Right Extremist Forum Users,”
Terrorism and Political Violence. Ahead of Print, 1-21.
EXAMINING ONLINE INDICATORS OF EXTREMISM
34
2
See, for example, Southern Poverty Law Center, “White Homicide Worldwide,” 1 April 2014.
Available at: https://www.splcenter.org/20140331/white-homicide-worldwide (accessed 12 May,
2020).
3
See Conway et al., “Right-Wing Extremists’ Persistent Online Presence.”
4
Les Back, “Aryans Reading Adorno: Cyber-Culture and Twenty-First Century Racism,” Ethnic
and Racial Studies 25, no. 4 (2002): 628-651; Ana-Maria Bliuc, John Betts, Matteo Vergani,
Muhammad Iqbal, and Kevin Dunn, “Collective Identity Changes in Far-Right Online
Communities: The Role of Offline Intergroup Conflict,” New Media and Society 21, no. 8
(2019):1770–1786; Val Burris, Emery Smith, E., and Ann Strahm, “White Supremacist
Networks on the Internet,” Sociological Focus 33, no. 2 (2000): 215-235; Willem De Koster, and
Dick Houtman, “‘Stormfront is Like a Second Home to Me,’” Information, Communication and
Society 11, no. 8 (2008): 1155-1176; Robert Futrell and Pete Simi, “Free Spaces, Collective
Identity, and the Persistence of U.S. White Power Activism,” Social Problems 51, no 1. (2004):
16-42; Holt et al., “Examining the Online Expression of Ideology among Far-Right Extremist
Forum Users”; Ryan Scrivens, Garth Davies, and Richard Frank, “Measuring the Evolution of
Radical Right-Wing Posting Behaviors Online,” Deviant Behavior 41, no. 2 (2020): 216-232;
Ryan Scrivens, “Exploring Radical Right-Wing Posting Behaviors Online,” Deviant Behavior.
Ahead of Print, 1-15; Magdalena Wojcieszak, “‘Don’t Talk to Me’: Effects of Ideological
Homogenous Online Groups and Politically Dissimilar Offline Ties on Extremism,” New Media
and Society 12, no. 4 (2010): 637-655.
5
Mattias Ekman, “Anti-Refugee Mobilization in Social Media: The Case of Soldiers of Odin,”
Social Media and Society 4, no. 1 (2018): 1-11; Lella Nouri and Nuria Lorenzo-Dus,
“Investigating Reclaim Australia and Britain First’s Use of Social Media: Developing a New
Model of Imagined Political Communities Online,” Journal for Deradicalization 18 (2019): 1-
37; Sebastian Stier, Lisa Posch, Arnim Bleier, and Markus Strohmaier, “When Populists Become
Popular: Comparing Facebook Use by the Right-Wing Movement Pegida and German Political
Parties,” Information, Communication and Society 20, no. 9 (2017): 1365-1388.
6
J. M. Berger, Nazis vs. ISIS on Twitter: A Comparative Study of White Nationalist and ISIS
Online Social Media Networks (Washington, DC: The George Washington University Program
on Extremism, 2016); J. M. Berger and Bill Strathearn, Who Matters Online: Measuring
Influence, Evaluating Content and Countering Violent Extremism in Online Social Networks
(London, UK: The International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence,
2013); Pete Burnap and Matthew L. Williams, “Cyber Hate Speech on Twitter: An Application
of Machine Classification and Statistical Modeling for Policy and Decision,” Policy and Internet
7, no. 2 (2015): 223-242; Roderick Graham, “Inter-Ideological Mingling: White Extremist
Ideology Entering the Mainstream on Twitter,” Sociological Spectrum 36, no. 1 (2016): 24-36.
7
Mattias Ekman, “The Dark Side of Online Activism: Swedish Right-Wing Extremist Video
Activism on YouTube,” MedieKultur: Journal of Media and Communication Research 30, no 56
(2014): 21-34; Derek O’Callaghan, Derek Greene, Maura Conway, Joe Carthy, and Pádraig
Cunningham, “Down the (White) Rabbit Hole: The Extreme Right and Online Recommender
Systems,” Social Science Computer Review 33, no. 4 (2014): 1-20.
8
Savvas Finkelstein, Joel Zannettou, Barry Bradlyn, and Jeremy Blackburn, “A Quantitative
Approach to Understanding Online Antisemitism,” arXiv:1809.01644, 2018; Antonis Papasavva,
Savvas Zannettou, Elimiano De Cristofaro, Gianluca Stringhini, and Jeremy Blackburn, “Raiders
of the Lost Kek: 3.5 Years of Augmented 4chan Posts from the Politically Incorrect Board,”
arXiv:2001.07487, 2020.
EXAMINING ONLINE INDICATORS OF EXTREMISM
35
9
Savvas Zannettou, Barry Bradlyn, Elimiano De Cristofaro, Haewoon Kwak, Michael
Sirivianos, Gianluca Stringini, and Jeremy Blackburn, “What is Gab: A Bastion of Free Speech
or an Alt-Right Echo Chamber,” Proceedings of the WWW ’18: Companion Proceedings of The
Web Conference 2018’, Lyon, Fance; Yuchen Zhou, Mark Dredze, David A. Broniatowski, and
William D. Adler, “Elites and Foreign Actors Among the Alt-Right: The Gab Social Media
Platform,” First Monday 24, no. 9 (2019).
10
Gabriel Weimann and Natalie Masri, “Research Note: Spreading Hate on TikTok,” Studies in
Conflict & Terrorism. Ahead of Print, 1-14.
11
Jakob Guhl and Jacob Davey, A Safe Space to Hate: White Supremacist Mobilisation on
Telegram (London, UK: Institute for Strategic Dialogue, 2020); Aleksandra Urman and Stefan
Katz, “What they do in the Shadows: Examining the Far-right Networks on Telegram”,
Information, Communication & Society. Ahead of Print, 1-20.
12
Jacob Davey, Mackenzie Hart, and Cécile Guerin, An Online Environmental Scan of Right-
Wing Extremism in Canada (London, UK: Institute for Strategic Dialogue, 2020); Benjamin Lee
and Kim Knott, “Fascist Aspirants: Fascist Forge and Ideological Learning in the Extreme-Right
Online Milieu,” Behavioral Sciences of Terrorism and Political Aggression. Ahead of print, 1-
25; Ryan Scrivens, Thomas W. Wojciechowski, and Richard Frank, “Examining the
Developmental Pathways of Online Posting Behavior in Violent Right-Wing Extremist Forums”,
Terrorism and Political Violence. Ahead of Print, 1-18; Jacques Singer-Emery and Rex Bray III,
“The Iron March Data Dump Provides a Window Into How White Supremacists Communicate
and Recruit”, Lawfare, 27 February 2020. Available at: https://www.lawfareblog.com/iron-
march-data-dump-provides-window-how-white-supremacists-communicate-and-recruit
(accessed 2 July 2020).
13
Davey et al., An Online Environmental Scan of Right-Wing Extremism in Canada.
14
Lee and Knott, “Fascist Aspirants.”
15
Ibid, p. 11.
16
Examples include Mack Lamoureux, “Fascist Forge, the Online Neo-Nazi Recruitment Forum,
is Down,” Vice News, 15 February 2019. Available at
https://www.vice.com/en_ca/article/43zn8j/fascist-forge-the-online-neo-nazi-recruitment-forum-
is-down (accessed 24 June 2020); Mack Lamoureux and Ben Makuch, “Online Neo-Nazis are
Increasingly Embracing Terror Tactics,” Vice News, 28 January 2019. Available at
https://www.vice.com/en_ca/article/8xynq4/online-neo-nazis-are-increasingly-embracing-terror-
tactics (accessed 24 June 2020); Team Ross, “Transnational White Terror: Exposing
Atomwaffen and the Iron March Networks,” Bellingcat, 19 December 2019. Available at
https://www.bellingcat.com/news/2019/12/19/transnational-white-terror-exposing-atomwaffen-
and-the-iron-march-networks (accessed 24 June 2020); Jason Wilson, “Leak from Neo-Nazi Site
Could Identify Hundreds of Extremists Worldwide,” The Guardian, 7 November 2019.
Available at https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/nov/07/neo-nazi-site-iron-march-
materials-leak (accessed 24 June 2020).
17
Davey et al., An Online Environmental Scan of Right-Wing Extremism in Canada.
18
Lee and Knott, “Fascist Aspirants.”
19
See Conway et al., “Right-Wing Extremists’ Persistent Online Presence”; see also Holt et al.,
“Examining the Online Expression of Ideology among Far-Right Extremist Forum Users.”
20
Maura Conway, “Determining the Role of the Internet in Violent Extremism and Terrorism:
Six Suggestions for Progressing Research,” Studies in Conflict & Terrorism 40, no. 1 (2017): 77-
EXAMINING ONLINE INDICATORS OF EXTREMISM
36
98; Scrivens et al., “Examining the Developmental Pathways of Online Posting Behavior in
Violent Right-Wing Extremist Forums.”
21
Conway, “Determining the Role of the Internet in Violent Extremism and Terrorism.”
22
See Conway et al., “Right-Wing Extremists’ Persistent Online Presence.”
23
Conway, “Determining the Role of the Internet in Violent Extremism and Terrorism.”
24
Jacob Davey and Julia Ebner, The Fringe Insurgency: Connectivity, Convergence and
Mainstreaming of the Extreme Right (London, UK: Institute for Strategic Dialogue, 2017).
25
Davey et al., An Online Environmental Scan of Right-Wing Extremism in Canada.
26
Savvas Zannettou, Joel Finkelstein, Barry Bradlyn, and Jeremy Blackburn, “A Quantitative
Approach to Understanding Online Antisemitism,” 2019, arXiv:1809.01644.
27
Manoel Horta Ribeiro, Shagun Jhaver, Savvas Zannettou, Jeremy Blackburn, Emiliano De
Cristofaro, Gianluca Stringhini, and Robert West, “Does Platform Migration Compromise
Content Moderation? Evidence from r/The_Donald and r/Incels,” arXiv:2010.10397v2, 2020.
28
Holt et al., “Examining the Online Expression of Ideology among Far-Right Extremist Forum
Users.”
29
For example, see J. Reid Meloy, Karoline Roshdi, Justine Glaz-Ocik, and Jens Hoffmann,
“Investigating the Individual Terrorist in Europe,” Journal of Threat Assessment and
Management 2, no. 3-4 (2015): 140-152; see also John Monahan, “The Individual Risk
Assessment of Terrorism,” Psychology, Public Policy, and Law 18, no. 2 (2012): 167-205; Kiran
M. Sarma, “Risk Assessment and the Prevention of Radicalization from Nonviolence into
Terrorism,” American Psychologist 72, no. 3(2017): 278-288.
30
See Michael Wolfowicz, Yael Litmanovitz, David Weisburd, and Badi Hasisi, “A Field-Wide
Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Putative Risk and Protective Factors for Radicalization
Outcomes,” Journal of Quantitative Criminology 36 (2020): 407-447.
31
Caitlin Clemmow, Paul Gill, Noémie Bouhana, James Silver, and John Horgan,
“Disaggregating Lone-actor Grievance-Fuelled Violence: Comparing Lone-Actor Terrorists and
Mass Murderers,” Terrorism and Political Violence. Ahead of print, 1-25; Sarah L. Desmarais,
Joseph Simons-Rudolph, Christine S. Brugh, Eileen Schilling, and Chad Hoggan, “The State of
Scientific Knowledge Regarding Factors Associated with Terrorism,” Journal of Threat
Assessment and Management 4, no. 4 (2017): 180-209; Paul Gill, John Horgan, and Paige
Deckert, “Bombing Alone: Tracing the Motivations and Antecedent Behaviours of Lone‐Actor
Terrorists,” Journal of Forensic Sciences 59, no. 2 (2014): 425-435.
32
Mattias Ekman, “Anti-refugee Mobilization in Social Media: The Case of Soldiers of Odin”,
Social Media + Society 4, no. 1 (2018): 1-11; Tiana Gaudette, Ryan Scrivens, Garth Davies and
Richard Frank, “Upvoting Extremism: Collective Identity Formation and the Extreme Right on
Reddit,” New Media and Society. Ahead of print, 1-18; Imogen Richards, “A Philosophical and
Historical Analysis of “Generation Identity”: Fascism, Online Media, and the European New
Right,” Terrorism and Political Violence. Ahead of print, 1-20; Ryan Scrivens and Amarnath
Amarasingam, “Haters Gonna “Like”: Exploring Canadian Far-Right Extremism on Facebook,”
in Mark Littler and Benjamin Lee, Eds., Digital Extremisms: Readings in Violence,
Radicalisation and Extremism in the Online Space (London, UK, Palgrave 2020), pp. 63-89;
Mattias Wahlström and Anton Törnberg, “Social Media Mechanisms for Right-Wing Political
Violence in the 21st Century: Discursive Opportunities, Group Dynamics, and Co-Ordination,”
Terrorism and Political Violence. Ahead of print, 1-22.
33
Guhl and Davey, A Safe Space to Hate.
34
Bliuc et al., “Collective Identity Changes in Far-Right Online Communities.”
EXAMINING ONLINE INDICATORS OF EXTREMISM
37
35
Isabelle van der Vegt, Maximilian Mozes, Paul Gill and Bennett Kleinberg, “Online Influence,
Offline Violence: Language use on YouTube Surrounding the ‘Unite the Right’ Rally,” Journal
of Computational Social Science. Ahead of print, 1-22.
36
Markus Kaakinen, Atte Oksanen, and Pekka Räsänen, “Did the Risk of Exposure to Online
Hate Increase After the November 2015 Paris Attacks? A Group Relations Approach,”
Computers in Human Behavior 78 (2018): 90-97; Matthew L. Williams and Pete Burnap,
“Cyberhate on Social Media in the Aftermath of Woolwich: A Case Study in Computational
Criminology and Big Data,” British Journal of Criminology 56, no. 2 (2015): 211-238.
37
Ryan Scrivens, George W. Burruss, Thomas J. Holt, Steven M. Chermak, Joshua D. Freilich,
and Richard Frank, “Triggered by Defeat or Victory? Assessing the Impact of Presidential
Election Results on Extreme Right-Wing Mobilization Online,” Deviant Behavior. Ahead of
print, 1-16; Shlomi Sela, Tsvi Kuflik and Gustavo S. Mesch, “Changes in the Discourse of
Online Hate Blogs: The Effect of Barack Obama's Election in 2008,” First Monday 17, no. 11
(2012); Karsten Müller and Carlo Schwarz, “Making America Hate Again? Twitter and Hate
Crime Under Trump,” 2018. doi: 10.2139/ssrn.3149103.
38
See, for example, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Homegrown Violent Extremist
Mobilization Indicators 2019 Edition (Washington, DC: Office of the Director of National
Intelligence, 2019).
39
See Paul Gill, Emily Corner, Maura Conway, Amy Thornton, Mia Bloom, and John Horgan,
“Terrorist Use of the Internet by the Numbers: Quantifying Behaviors, Patterns, and Processes,”
Criminology and Public Policy 16, vol. 1 (2017): 99-117; see also Tiana Gaudette, Ryan
Scrivens, and Vivek Venkatesh, The Role of the Internet in Facilitating Violent Extremism:
Insights from Former Right-Wing Extremists,” Terrorism and Political Violence. Ahead of print,
1-18.
40
A most recent example includes the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Homegrown Violent
Extremist Mobilization Indicators 2019 Edition.
41
See Ibid.
42
Anti-Defamation League, “Fascist Forge: A New Forum for Hate,” Anti-Defamation League,
15 January 2019. Available at https://www.adl.org/blog/fascist-forge-a-new-forum-for-hate.
(accessed 24 June 2020); Florence Keen, “How the Global Far-Right Makes Use of Social
Networking,” Global Network on Extremism and Technology Insights, 31 December 2019.
Available at https://gnet-research.org/2019/12/31/from-iron-march-to-fascist-forge-how-the-
global-far-right-makes-use-of-social-networking (accessed 24 June 2020).
43
Lamoureux, “Fascist Forge, the Online Neo-Nazi Recruitment Forum, is Down”; Wilson,
“Leak from Neo-Nazi Site Could Identify Hundreds of Extremists Worldwide.”
44
James Poulter, “The Obscure Neo-Nazi Forum Linked to a Wave of Terror,” Vice, 12 March
2018. Available at https://www.vice.com/en_uk/article/437pkd/the-obscure-neo-nazi-forum-
linked-to-a-wave-of-terror (accessed 24 June 2020).
45
Team Ross, “Transnational White Terror.”
46
Jacob Ware, “Siege: The Atomwaffen Division and Rising Far-Right Terrorism in the United
States,” The International Centre for Counter-Terrorism – The Hague 7(2019): 1-20.
47
Anti-Defamation League, “Fascist Forge”; Lamoureux, “Fascist Forge, the Online Neo-Nazi
Recruitment Forum, is Down.”
48
Michael Edison Hayden, “Visions of Chaos: Weighing the Violent Legacy of Iron March,”
Southern Poverty Law Center, 15 February 2019. Available at
EXAMINING ONLINE INDICATORS OF EXTREMISM
38
https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2019/02/15/visions-chaos-weighing-violent-legacy-iron-
march (accessed 24 June 2020).
49
Wilson, “Leak from Neo-Nazi Site Could Identify Hundreds of Extremists Worldwide.”
50
Lamoureux, “Fascist Forge, the Online Neo-Nazi Recruitment Forum, is Down.”
51
Anti-Defamation League, “Fascist Forge”; Michael Edison Hayden, “Mysterious Neo-Nazi
Advocated Terrorism for Six Years Before Disappearance,” Southern Poverty Law Center, 21
May 2019. Available at https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2019/05/21/mysterious-neo-nazi-
advocated-terrorism-six-years-disappearance (accessed 24 June 2020).
52
Davey et al., An Online Environmental Scan of Right-Wing Extremism in Canada.
53
Ibid.
54
Ibid.
55
Lamoureux and Makuch, “Online Neo-Nazis are Increasingly Embracing Terror Tactics.”
56
Davey et al., An Online Environmental Scan of Right-Wing Extremism in Canada.
57
Lamoureux and Makuch, “Online Neo-Nazis are Increasingly Embracing Terror Tactics.”
58
Lamoureux, “Fascist Forge, the Online Neo-Nazi Recruitment Forum, is Down.”
59
Lamoureux and Makuch, “Online Neo-Nazis are Increasingly Embracing Terror Tactics.”
60
Lizzie Dearden, “Teenage Neo-Nazi Convicted of Planning Terror Attack Targeting
Synagogues as Part of ‘Race War’,” Independent, 20 November 2019. Available at
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/synagogue-attack-durham-terror-neo-nazi-race-
war-antisemitism-a9210856.html (accessed 24 June 2020).
61
Daniel De Simone and Ali Winston, “Neo-Nazi Militant Group Grooms Teenagers,” BBC
News, 22 June 2020. Available at https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-53128169 (accessed 24 June
2020).
62
Counter Extremism Project, “Extremist Content Online: U.K. Neo-Nazi Active on Online
Forum Fascist Forge Arrested,” 25 November 2019. Available at:
https://www.counterextremism.com/press/extremist-content-online-uk-neo-nazi-active-online-
forum-fascist-forge-arrested (accessed 24 June 2020).
63
For more information on the web-crawler, see Ryan Scrivens, Tiana Gaudette, Garth Davies,
and Richard Frank, “Searching for Extremist Content Online Using The Dark Crawler and
Sentiment Analysis,” in Mathieu Deflem and Derek M. D. Silva, Eds., Methods of Criminology
and Criminal Justice Research (Bingley, UK: Emerald Publishing, 2019), pp. 179-194.
64
Fascist Forge’s ‘multi-stage application process’ to vet its users before they are given access to
post or visit and participate in private channels there did not affect the data collection process for
the current study, as only the postings from the open access section of the forum were extracted.
In other words, those who were not vetted could view the open access sections of the forum and,
by extension, extract the open access content from the platform.
65
Examples include Davey et al., An Online Environmental Scan of Right-Wing Extremism in
Canada; Lee and Knott, “Fascist Aspirants.”
66
Each observation could have received multiple codes.
67
J. M. Berger, Extremism (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2018).
68
Conway et al., “Right-Wing Extremists’ Persistent Online Presence.”
69
Southern Poverty Law Center, “Ideologies,” 19 November 2020. Available at:
https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/ideology (accessed 19 November 2020).
70
A select number of ideology codes were drawn from the SPLC ideologies list to make up the
ideology codebook for the current study – ideologies that we believe applied to the data or did
not overlap with other ideology categories outlined by the SPLC. For example, SPLC’s category
EXAMINING ONLINE INDICATORS OF EXTREMISM
39
‘neo-Nazi’, ‘racist skinhead’, and ‘Ku Klux Klan’ were omitted from the current study as their
description were too similar to code in a meaningful way. Other ideologies from SPLC’s list that
were omitted from our codebook included Black separatist, Phineas Priesthood, and hate music,
given that they did not adequately represent the data under investigation.
71
Barbara Perry, and Randy Blazak, “Places for Races: The White Supremacist Movement
Imagines US Geography,” Journal of Hate Studies 8, no. 1 (2009): 29-51; Pete Simi, “Why
Study White Supremacist Terror? A Research Note,” Deviant Behavior 31, no. 3 (2010): 251–
73.
72
Lorraine Bowman-Grieve, “‘Exploring ‘Stormfront’: A Virtual Community of the Radical
Right,” Studies in Conflict & Terrorism 32, no. 11 (2009): 989-1007; Jessie Daniels, Cyber
Racism: White Supremacy Online and the New Attack on Civil Rights (Lanham, MA: Rowman
and Littlefield Publishers, 2009).
73
Barkun, “Millenarian Aspects of ‘White Supremacist’ Movements”; Dobratz and Shanks-
Meile, “White Power, White Pride!”; Kaplan, “Right Wing Violence in North America;” Kaplan,
“Leaderless Resistance.”
74
Gill et al., “Bombing Alone.”
75
Clemmow et al., “Disaggregating Lone-actor Grievance-Fuelled Violence.”
76
Federal Bureau of Investigation, Homegrown Violent Extremist Mobilization Indicators 2019
Edition (Washington, DC: Office of the Director of National Intelligence, 2019).
77
Analyses were conducted using R, a free software for statistical computing. For more
information on R, see https://www.r-project.org/about.html.
78
Keen, “How the Global Far-Right Makes Use of Social Networking;” Davey et al., An Online
Environmental Scan of Right-Wing Extremism in Canada.
79
Michael Barkun, “Millenarian Aspects of ‘White Supremacist’ Movements,” Terrorism and
Political Violence 1, no. 4 (1989): 409-34; Betty A. Dobratz, and Stephanie L. Shanks-Meile,
“White Power, White Pride!”: The White Separatist Movement in the United States
(Woodbridge, CT: Twayne Pub, 1997); Raphael S. Ezekiel, The Racist Mind: Portraits of
American Neo-Nazi and Klansmen (New York: Viking Penguin, 1995); Jeffrey Kaplan, “Right
Wing Violence in North America,” Terrorism and Political Violence 7, no. 1 (1995): 44-95;
Jeffrey Kaplan, “Leaderless Resistance,” Terrorism and Political Violence 9, no. 3 (1997): 80-
95.
80
Bowman-Grieve, “‘Exploring ‘Stormfront’”; Daniels, Cyber Racism; Holt et al., “Examining
the Online Expression of Ideology among Far-Right Extremist Forum Users”; Scrivens et al.,
“Measuring the Evolution of Radical Right-Wing Posting Behaviors Online”; Scrivens,
“Exploring Radical Right-Wing Posting Behaviors Online.”
81
Davey et al., An Online Environmental Scan of Right-Wing Extremism in Canada.
82
Davey and Ebner, The Fringe Insurgency; Zannettou et al., “A Quantitative Approach to
Understanding Online Antisemitism.”
83
Singer-Emery and Bray III, “The Iron March Data Dump Provides a Window Into How White
Supremacists Communicate and Recruit”; Team Ross, “Transnational White Terror.”
84
Anti-Defamation League, “Fascist Forge.”
85
Lee and Knott, “Fascist Aspirants.”
86
Davey et al., An Online Environmental Scan of Right-Wing Extremism in Canada.
87
Ibid.
88
Lee and Knott, “Fascist Aspirants.”
EXAMINING ONLINE INDICATORS OF EXTREMISM
40
89
See Bowman-Grieve, “‘Exploring ‘Stormfront’”; see also Daniels, Cyber Racism; De Koster
and Houtman, “‘Stormfront is Like a Second Home to Me’;” Wojcieszak, “‘Don’t Talk to Me’.”
90
See Anti-Defamation League, “Fascist Forge; see also Keen, “How the Global Far-Right
Makes Use of Social Networking;” Lamoureux and Makuch, “Online Neo-Nazis are Increasingly
Embracing Terror Tactics.”
91
Anti-Defamation League, “Fascist Forge; see also Keen, “How the Global Far-Right Makes
Use of Social Networking;” Lamoureux and Makuch, “Online Neo-Nazis are Increasingly
Embracing Terror Tactics;” Subcomandante X, “Iron March Copycat Forum Offers Valuable
Insight into Fascist Tactics,” American Odyssey, 24 September 2018. Available at
https://medium.com/americanodyssey/iron-march-fascist-forge-forum-domestic-terrorism-
1b01947902a7 (accessed 24 June 2020)
92
Scrivens et al., “Examining the Developmental Pathways of Online Posting Behavior in
Violent Right-Wing Extremist Forums.”
93
Lamoureux and Makuch, “Online Neo-Nazis are Increasingly Embracing Terror Tactics.”
94
Davey et al., An Online Environmental Scan of Right-Wing Extremism in Canada.
95
Anti-Defamation League, “Fascist Forge;” Davey et al., An Online Environmental Scan of
Right-Wing Extremism in Canada.
96
Lamoureux, “Fascist Forge, the Online Neo-Nazi Recruitment Forum, is Down.”
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Thesis
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The overwhelming focus in the scholarly literature on extremist groups online tends to focus on jihadist groups like the so-called Islamic State and Al Qaeda. With right-wing violence erupting in places like Charlottesville and Quebec City, and with a new generation of extreme right activism coming to the fore, there is a need to better understand how its members communicate online, not only in Canada but around the globe. While the racist "old guard" has maintained its presence in traditional online spaces, a new generation of right-wing extremists are communicating on an array of social media sites, with Facebook at the forefront. Although some scholarship is emerging, relatively little remains known about how right-wing extremist groups make use of these platforms. This gap in the research is particularly prevalent in the Canadian context. In this chapter, then, we draw from a sample of 34 of Canada's most prominent far-right extremist group pages on Facebook using a mixed-methods approach. Here we assess the popularity of the group pages, the volume of content and the types of posts that generate the most user engagement, paired with an in-depth analysis of the group posts that generate the most "buzz" amongst users, exploring who is targeted, why the content is so popular, and how the use of violence is negotiated by the groups.
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