At least two months before the presidential election in the USA, researchers had observed a 600 per cent rise in twitter activities of white nationalists and neo-Nazis who championed Donald Trump as the next president.
Researchers at the Program on Extremism at George Washington University also observed that though twitter remained the preferred social platform of the Islamic State (ISIS), American white nationalist movements outperformed the ISIS in nearly every social metric, from follower counts to tweets per day.
The report published in September this year examined and compared the use of Twitter by white nationalists, Nazi sympathizers, and ISIS supporters, providing some preliminary comparisons of how each movement uses the platform.
Here are the major findings:
* Followers of white nationalists on Twitter were heavily invested in Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. White nationalist users referenced Trump more than almost any other topic, and Trump-related hashtags outperformed every white nationalist hashtag except for #whitegenocide within the sets of users examined.
* Major American white nationalist movements on Twitter added about 22,000 followers since 2012, an increase of about 600%.
*The most popular theme among white nationalists on Twitter was the concept of “white genocide,” the notion that the “white race” is directly endangered by the increasing diversity of society.
* On Twitter, accounts focused on Nazi sympathies were more prevalent than any other white nationalist movement, and pro-Nazi propaganda was tweeted more often than any other content.
* Organized recruitment, proselytization, and social media activism were primarily carried out by a highly interconnected network of users drawing on common themes/ activity with a Nazi slant.
* White nationalists and Nazis had substantially higher follower counts than ISIS supporters, and tweeted more often. ISIS supporters had better discipline regarding consistent use of the movement’s hashtags, but trailed in virtually every other respect. The clear advantage enjoyed by white nationalists was attributable in part to the effects of aggressive suspensions of accounts associated with ISIS networks.
* Small groups of users tweeting in concert at high volumes can amplify their effect, causing hashtags and content to trend in numbers significant enough to prompt mainstream media coverage.
* On average, white nationalist accounts tweeted 11.8 times per day and Nazi accounts tweeted 12.1 times per day. Tweet types were meaningfully identical for both datasets. Based on median values, about 11% of tweets were retweets, while 8% were direct replies. White nationalists sent slightly more replies and slightly fewer retweets than Nazis.
* For white nationalist users whose location could be estimated algorithmically 43% claimed to be in the United States, 9% claimed to be in the UK, and 5% claimed to be located in Canada. No other country accounted for more than 3% of the total.
* Among Nazi users, only 33% claimed to be in the United States. 16% claimed that they were located in the UK, 6% in Spain, 4% in Germany, and 4% in Canada. No other country accounted for more than 2% of the total.
* While ISIS networks promote propaganda and talking points, its recruiting practices are more grounded in community-building and creating a welcoming environment for potential adherents.
* In contrast, white nationalists tend to be antagonistic, with a significant amount of content consisting of negative feedback (trolling) directed at users considered “anti-white.”
* White nationalists online do appear to inspire violence, a form of material participation, but not in a highly organized manner visible in open sources.
* To some extent, the rise of an anti-social “trolling culture” is amplifying the presence of white nationalist content on social media.