How social media helped organize and radicalize America’s white supremacists

Pacific Standard reports: White supremacy groups have a long history in the United States, yet some of the news around the groups’ most recent activity has featured a decidedly Millennial flavor. The leaders of this weekend’s demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia—during which a man drove a car toward counter-protestors, setting off a chain reaction that injured at least 19 people and killed one—had organized using a Facebook event.

Meanwhile, the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi news site, used memes to drum up enthusiasm for the demonstration. (The Daily Stormer’s domain name was originally provided by GoDaddy, before moving to Google; both companies eventually revoked the website’s registration.) And, just as the violence was unfolding in Charlottesville, the Guardian published a story about how young, white men are becoming radicalized through YouTube.

In other words, the tools of the Internet Age have helped white supremacists and other bigots to share ideas and organize. That’s the dark side of the rise of the Internet and social media, as University of California–Irvine political scientist Richard Hasen argued in a paper he posted publicly last week. Not yet peer-reviewed, the paper talks about how free communication over the Internet has undermined democracy in the U.S., in part by empowering extremist groups. Pacific Standard talked with Hasen about how violent racists—like the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis—use online tools, and how we might curb those extremist groups without hindering free speech. [Continue reading…]

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