Tuesday, May 08, 2018

When Extremist Online Recruiters Get Close To Home


My neighbor is in synch with Bernie's views but she's a personal friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton and she voted for Hillary in 2016. So did her son. Her son, who's in his 40s, is sorry he did. After the election he changed his mind and is now firmly committed to Trump. How firmly? He's a well-educated and talented guy and believes Trump is using the things he writes in his speeches. Writes? Yes, he halted his cable connection-- thinking mainstream TV is controlled by liberals-- and now gets all his info from some very extreme right/extreme Trump internet sites. And he writes for them.

He told his mother she's brain-washed because she rejected some of the things he's found out and keeps telling her. Like Obama has sex with 10 year old girls. Like the Clinton's run a sex island featuring minors. Like Hillary drinks human blood.

As far as his mother knows, he doesn't have a gun, but he's very dangerous. He stopped paying for insurance (ObamaCare) and is waiting for Trump to offer much less expensive insurance. That sounds dangerous, especially because he's walking arounds L.A. with a red MAGA hat and could-- hopefully not-- wind up with broken body parts.

Ever read how ISIS recruits online? I always thought people susceptible to that were pathetic people with low IQs. My friend's son is anything but. He's very intelligent, went to college and speaks several languages. And it isn't only ISIS that recruits on-line, of course. Neil Johnson, writing for the New Republic looked at the problem of self-affirming virtual communities in 2016. "[A]ny of us might join online groups focused on some common interest," wrote Johnson. "The videos, audio messages, letters, chatter and know-how that they then share are much more sinister than typical online hobbies, though. They may ultimately inspire terrorist acts by individuals who have no prior history of extremism, no formal cell membership, no direct links to leadership."

Do you have a crackpot brother-in-law who send this out?

This isn't about supporting Trump; obviously anyone is entitled too and millions of Americans do. 62,984,828 Americans voted for him (46.1% of the voters), almost as many as voted for Hillary. Even in California he had 4,483,810 votes (31.62%). Hard to believe! Even in L.A. County 620,285 people voted for him (23.4%); hard to imagine! But that's their prerogative, right? But Hillary drinking human blood? Obama screwing 10 year olds? Now we're getting into serious delusion that could easily lead to something more than just voting for Trump in 2020 or do other fascists in the future. Maybe it's worth figuring out how ISIS does it and how that relates to Americans. Johnson and his colleagues are attempting to "decode the online 'ecology' of ISIS supporters."
Our research revealed an ultrafast ecology of self-organized aggregates that share operational information and propaganda, and whose rapid evolution drives the online support.

...[P]ro-ISIS aggregates are leaderless, self-organized entities that change rapidly over time. But now that we’ve identified a rather precise mathematical equation that describes their evolution, we can start to think about how to intervene.

To start, the main implication of our work is that once you identify the aggregates, you have your hand on the pulse of the entire organization. Instead of having to sift through millions of internet users and tracking specific individuals, an anti-ISIS agency can simply follow the relatively small number of aggregates to gauge what is happening in terms of hard-core global ISIS support.

As these ISIS supporters coalesce over time into aggregates, anti-ISIS agencies have an opportunity to step in and break up small aggregates before they develop into larger, potentially powerful ones. One concern is that if anti-ISIS agencies-- be they government-based, private hackers or online moderators-- aren’t active enough in their countermeasures, pro-ISIS support could quickly grow from a number of smaller aggregates into one superaggregate.

...[O]ur research also suggests that any online “lone wolf” actor will truly be alone only for short periods of time. Since we observed that people with serious interest in ISIS online tend to coalesce into these aggregate groups, any such lone wolf was likely either recently in an aggregate or will soon be in one.
This year Meghan Keneally, reporting for ABC News, wrote that American racist and alt-right hate groups are using similar online recruiting methods as ISIS. John Cohen, an ABC News consultant and former acting Homeland Security undersecretary, told her that "many of these groups appeal to the same type of person in the same type of way."
"All of these extremist groups promote an agenda that focuses on fighting those who are victimizing them and that resonates with these individuals who all believe that they have personally been victimized in their own lives," Cohen said in an interview.

..."When you see someone falling off the grid, what happens is they have less and less connection to what you and I know as reality. They become more and more connected to other people who fall off the grid. And that’s why it’s not a surprise that when you got nothing you end up in some, you know, skinhead Aryan Nazi hate-Jew group. So it fits the picture that everybody should have seen here."

Oren Segal, the director of the Anti-Defamation League’s center on extremism, reiterated that the online propaganda for hate groups mirrors the way that ISIS and other extremist groups, who, he says "were sort of early adopters to technology," have been trying to approach Americans for years.

"What we have seen in, I’d say the last two years, is the white supremacists and in particular the alt-right finding new ways to exploit social media platforms [and] recruit adherents to make use of the tools that are pretty much available to anyone," Segal said.

The Internet "has never been the sole domain of ISIS or al Qaeda. White supremacist propaganda has been available the way that ISIS and al Qaeda propaganda has been available online for years," Segal said, noting "there’s more accessibility… than ever before."

Cohen pointed to slickly produced videos, almost like music videos or movie trailers, that ISIS and similar groups create with the "underlying message [of] 'join our cause, you will be a part of our family and your life will have meaning.'" Cohen said that thematically similar videos featuring footage of protesters carrying tiki torches in Charlottesville were "posted throughout the white supremacist social media world" after the August protest.

Ryan Lenz, a spokesperson for hate group watchdog organization the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, told ABC News "the Internet is a place of both passive and active radicalization."

"ISIS as an organization has a very deliberate and systematic means of reaching out to people online. The alt-right does so in a very different fashion. More often than not, people stumble into an ideology on the far right," Lenz said.

Both Segal and Lenz pointed to Dylann Roof, the Charleston church shooter who killed nine people in 2015, as another example of a young American man who became fascinated with racist ideologies. During a police interview that was later shown in court, Roof said that he was reading about the Trayvon Martin case online and "for some reason I typed in ‘black on white crime’ and ever since then" he had looked into race issues.

The SPLC released its annual report called "The Year in Hate & Extremism" last month and noted how large online audiences for white supremacist groups had grown. Specifically looking at The Daily Stormer, which the SPLC called "rabidly racist and anti-Semitic," the report stated that the site averaged 140,000 unique page views a month in the summer of 2016 but had reached 750,000 unique monthly views in August of 2017, before the violent rally in Charlottesville.

"When you look at how the white nationalist movement has evolved in the United States in the last, say five years, there is no doubt that the Internet has become a principle grounds for recruit and radicalization," Lenz said.

Some technology companies took action to curb the spread of hate groups online. Web hosting service GoDaddy gave The Daily Stormer 24 hours to find a new provider after the Charlottesville rally and when it switched to Google Domains the site was rejected based on the company’s terms of service. Similarly, certain crowdfunding sites have rejected campaigns that raise money based around hateful beliefs.

Cohen said young male attackers can be easily influenced by whatever material they see first online.

"In some cases, they find material posted by ISIS and that's what resonates with them and they connect with that cause. In other cases, these individuals come upon materials posted by white supremacists, anti-government militia or other extremists groups and they self-connect with that cause instead, but the result is the same," Cohen said.
As far back as 2014, Wired warned that far-right extremists were using Twitter as a recruitment tool and spreading extremism. Wire reported some bad news: "The most influential Twitter followers among the sample are 'highly committed white nationalists unlikely to be swayed by intervention.' Influential users are also 'actively seeking dialogue with conservatives' through hashtags #tcot (or top conservatives on Twitter), #teaparty and #gop, as well as frequently linking to mainstream conservative websites. But only 4 percent of users identified as mainstream conservatives, which suggests the hashtags 'are driven more by white nationalists feeling an affinity for conservatism than by conservatives feeling an affinity for white nationalism.'"

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At 6:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The hallmark of humanity is its propensity to believe nonsense. All religions capitalize on this. Getting imbeciles to believe nonsense about others is trivial when they have a vast capacity to hate those others.

One of the dumbest sumbitches I ever met had a PHD and 2 masters. Intellectual potential is not the same as perspective and common sense.

Society in the US is among the most gullible to such nonsense precisely because it possesses among the greatest amounts of virulent hate. Combine that with our lust for guns and we are very dangerous indeed.

More proof that gawd cannot possibly exist.

At 12:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Because ignorance is a badge of honor, I don't see this extremism situation improving any time soon. It will only grow worse as the effects of the Republican assault upon the United States become manifest. Meanwhile, as Michelle Wolf pointed out at the Correspondents Dinner, the "democrats" do nothing!

Ready for that new party option yet?

At 3:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michelle Wolfe's disdain for 'craps wasn't covered near enough on this page, imo.


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