On the News

‘Localized Violence’ Seen As Extremists Spread Online

Efforts by Facebook and Twitter to squash claims from President Donald Trump and others of electoral fraud are prompting the messages to run wild on smaller fringe networks popular among the far right and then boomeranging back onto mainstream platforms.  Extremist groups, white nationalists and conspiracy theorists — some claiming ties to QAnon, which alleges a “deep-state” plot to undermine Trump — have taken to encrypted messaging apps and online message boards, Politico reports. There, they promote viral videos of unproven voter fraud, urge supporters to ready their guns in support of Trump and push anti-Semitic and racist claims about election officials. Such discussions have skyrocketed on these alternative platforms since the Nov. 3 election, creating a safe harbor for those pushing claims of fraud and a venue to push for real-world action.

“Fringe networks have become central to how extreme groups mobilize online,” said Nahema Marchal of the Oxford Internet Institute’s Computational Propaganda Project. “They’ve attracted hordes of people who think the major platforms are censoring them.” On Telegram and 4Chan, a network of online message boards where users post anonymously, extremists stand out prominently. On Telegram, militia groups, white nationalists and QAnon supporters swap updates on the latest voter fraud allegations and spread calls to take up arms to protect Trump’s presidency. “Extremist activity is starting to pick up. We’re seeing a lot of ‘standby’ rhetoric,” said Graham Brookie, director of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, which tracks online misinformation. “I would expect to see a possible uptick in localized violence.”