Social Media’s Role in Pushing Extremism Examined in New Reports
Two new reports released this week highlight the role of social media companies in hosting and promoting antisemitic and hateful content. The reports also shed light on how algorithms on these platforms contribute to guiding interested users further into extremist rabbit holes.
Research conducted by the Anti-Defamation League and Tech Transparency Project examined social media algorithms by creating fictional accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. When these accounts searched for antisemitic and racist content, all platforms except YouTube suggested additional similar pages and content. Instagram, in particular, directed a fictional 14-year-old account towards neo-Nazi content. This raises concerns about the intentional nature of these algorithmic recommendations.
White supremacist „active clubs” in California, also known as „fight clubs,” were found to have current and former members of the U.S. military among their ranks. These clubs recruit members for martial arts training and engage in harassment and intimidation of political adversaries. The involvement of military personnel highlights the broader appeal of the fitness-centric organizing model and the persistent struggle with extremism within the armed services.
In the world of online gaming, the launch of a virtual Holocaust museum in the popular game Minecraft was delayed due to online harassment. Independent video game designer Luc Bernard created the museum, approved by Fortnite developer Epic Games. The museum aims to educate players about the Holocaust and showcase resistance against the Nazis. The delay was prompted by concerns that individuals with Nazi ideologies might misuse the museum.
Additionally, a new report by the Southern Poverty Law Center reveals that a Bitcoin transfer of $3 million was sent to internet hosting company Epik, shortly after the company announced a hacking incident in 2021. Epik is known for hosting white supremacist and extremist websites. While the sender of the Bitcoin remains unidentified, the funds were subsequently transferred to a Malaysian businessman.
These developments bring attention to the ongoing challenge of combating extremism in online spaces and the need for social media platforms and gaming companies to address and mitigate the spread of hateful content.