Far-right extremists change online strategy

(Hill) – Domestic extremists are adapting their online strategies to promote disinformation and conspiracy despite the crackdown on social media platforms in the year since the attack. a pro-Trump crowd enters the Capitol.

Online extremist groups and far-right influencers are using more coded language to bypass loopholes in mainstream content moderation enforcement and are still operating on alternative platforms that has become popular since January 6, 2021, riots.

Experts say efforts to combat extremism at home must also adapt, or the spread of misinformation online risks leading to November’s midterm elections and the election. 2024 presidential election.

“There will always be this synergistic relationship between the content moderation failures of Facebook, Twitter, and alternative technology platforms like Parler. So we should absolutely expect that by the midterms of 2022, especially in the battleground states where things are extremely polarized, we should see a similar dynamic,” said Candace Rondeaux, director Future Frontlines program at the New America consulting organization, said.

Even more worrisome is what could happen in the run-up to the 2024 presidential election – where the capital for candidates, parties and stakeholders is greater and platforms can be used to “influence the debate to the point where things can turn violent”. Rondeaux said.

Research reports published this week have highlighted disinformation stories among far-right groups on platforms like Parler, Gab and Telegram. Department of Homeland Security also warn partners about the increase in conversation on extremist sites online.

While self-branding fringe platforms are separate from mainstream social media, they interweave the broader spectrum of internet conversations. Experts warn against dismissing the influence of alternative platforms despite their lower user base.

“A lot of the activity going on on those platforms is still reactive to what is happening on the mainstream platforms. So really understanding that dynamic and not seeing it as this completely separate and different factor when we think about the internet, I also think is important,” said Jared Holt, a resident fellow at the Lab. Digital Forensic Research Experiment (DFRLab).

New America release a report Wednesday, researchers at Arizona State University analyzed millions of Parler posts before and directly after last year’s uprising.

“Although more research is needed, our preliminary analysis suggests that as long as the regulatory loophole for social media platforms remains, the United States faces the prospect of a financial crisis.” lasting months — or worse, years of public backlash — politically correct violence pushes extremist cadres deeper into the fringes of the internet and beyond into the net dark,” the report states.

New platforms that have branded themselves as a haven for conservatives fed up with content censorship on mainstream sites have emerged since the riots.

In July, former Trump campaign aide Jason Miller launched Gettr, describing itself as a “free speech social media platform that fights cancelation culture”. Gettr announced Friday that it has hit 4 million users.

Trump is planning to launch his own social network called “TRUTH Social”. While the platform’s scope remains vague, Trump’s media company announced a deal with Rumble, a YouTube alternative popular with some right-wing audiences, in December.

A DFRLab Report released this week details how radical groups have adjusted their strategies, including through what Holt describes as a “giant game of musical chairs” – with influential far-right figures move on a variety of fringe sites and engage their followers.

While Parler and other alternative platforms cater to far-right audiences and pride themselves on their lack of content moderation, mainstream platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, has also been filled with posts amplifying disinformation about elections and groups that organized before the uprising.

Since last year’s violent attack, major platforms have been cracking down on misinformation. But they may not be doing enough, experts say.

Paul Barrett, deputy director of the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights, said the platform’s response trends make it “more likely that in 2022 and 2024, we will see new turmoil across the globe.” network and in the real world”.

Following the uprising, Facebook has taken steps to combat content that amplifies election misinformation and QAnon conspiracy theories. Facebook has banned content with the phrase “Stop the Steal” and banned pages, groups, and accounts tied to the QAnon conspiracy theory.

Facebook and Twitter also cut President TrumpFacebook’s account, although Facebook left open the option to recover Trump’s account next year.

“Even after January 6, and even after banning President Trump indefinitely or permanently, I find that platforms still tend to react to what they see as a public relations crisis, following There they tend to tackle these very serious problems, says Barrett.

“There isn’t any kind of concerted effort across the industry to say, ‘Let’s see us as part of the problem. Not because we meant to be part of the problem, but as it turned out, we inadvertently created tools that were being misused in relation to all-important institutions and processes. ”, he added.

A Facebook spokesperson denied claims that its actions were in response.

“Facebook has taken extraordinary steps to address harmful content, and we will continue to do our part,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “We are continuing to actively monitor threats on our platform and will respond accordingly.”

A Twitter spokesperson said the company took “strong enforcement action” against accounts that “incited violence” before and after the uprising.

“We recognize that Twitter has an important role to play, and we are committed to playing that role,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

While conspiracy disinformation is no longer “pervasive” on Facebook and Twitter, these platforms have not “completely solved the problem of misinformation,” Holt said.

Content from “superpartisan” media is still performing well across platforms, and moreover it is incorporating “the same ideology and rhetoric from banned sources,” he said.

Bret Schafer, head of the Information Manipulation Group for the Alliance for Privacy, said misinformation also continues to spread on mainstream platforms through censorship coding language.

“You still see a lot of the same stories there, it’s a bit more subtle and certainly the names of the groups aren’t quite the same,” Schafer said.

Many far-right extremists have also encouraged followers to make efforts to follow more local events, such as fighting COVID-19 restrictions or school curricula, which can be difficult. Online tracking and detection is more than a nationally focused event, Holt said.

By targeting local events, they need fewer participants to cause disruption, meaning groups and accounts with smaller followings that may be targeted remain potentially risky. .

“[If] The goal of an extremist group is not to gather 1,000 people in DC, but to gather 10 people at a school board, they don’t need channels or accounts with a million followers. They can pull it out with 30 if it’s the right 30 people,” Holt said.

“We’re not necessarily looking for big fish anymore,” he added. “Those big fish will continue to be important, but in this evolving situation, even smaller clumps that may not have had this particularly large reach could still potentially organize.”

https://kfor.com/news/u-s-world/far-right-extremists-shift-online-strategies/ Far-right extremists change online strategy


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