Revealed: The Dark Side of Alternative Social Media Platforms
Alternative social media platforms are becoming more and more popular every day, as the number of users keeps growing and new sites regularly open.
This trend began after mainstream social media platforms tightened their restrictions on the content that can be posted and barred users and conversation it deemed to go against its new policies. As a result, dozens of alternative social media sites emerged, in an effort to provide what they call “free speech” spaces.
Many of these sites are similar to mainstream platforms we all know and use; they have profile pages for each user, public pages and groups that users can follow and join, they use hashtags, and other common social media features.
However, the nature of some of the content on these platforms can be very different. While some people turned to these platforms to freely share their thoughts without the fear of being blocked, others used it to air radical, extremist and terrorist content. We also find a lot of fake news without supporting material and conspiracy theories.
Webz.io crawls dozens of different alternative social media platforms, all of them host extremist content and groups. By studying these spaces, we identified three main types of illicit and extremist content popular on alternative social media platforms: Terrorist and radical organizations, radical content and incitement, and extremist manifestoes.
Let’s take a deeper dive to examine each of these types.
Terrorist and radical organizations
Under this category we include hate groups that have been globally recognized as terrorist organizations which are banned on most parts of the web. Two examples of these organizations include the KKK and the Neo-Nazi movement. Yet here on alternative social networks, they operate freely. We can see groups, pages and users who are identified with these groups, actively sharing ideas and maintain these spaces.
Some of them are expressing their extremist ideology, as seen in the post below:
However, often it doesn’t end in just words. These discussions often escalate to hate speech and incitement for violence.
In the post below, an alternative social media users is calling for the entire right-wing to join forces and fight together. The actor signed off with “KOTOP” (“Knights Of The Open Palm) and “KLASP” (“Klannish Loyalty a Sacred Principle”), terms that are associated with the KKK.
Radical content and incitement
We also see users without any affiliation to a radical group or organization who share and use hate speech and radical content on these platforms, some also incite other users to violence against peoples or minority groups. Two examples of common hate speech we can often find include different types of antisemitic traits and racism against different ethnic groups.
While these users are not associated with any extremist or terrorist organization, it is important to track these types of radical posts (like the one seen in the image below) before they escalate and turn into physical actions.
In the post above, you can see a comment on a video posted on an video-sharing alternative social media platform. The video centers around the Russia-Ukraine war and how it will affect the U.S. military recruitments in case they will join the war. Out of hundreds of comments, dozens of them were antisemitic in nature, because the president of Ukraine is Jewish. In this particular comment above, the user is claiming to hate and kill Jews.
Below is another example of a similar comment to a post on a different alternative social media platform:
Alongside these types of hate speech and hate threats, we can also see content that involves explanations, persuasion and a form of incitement. These types of posts can quickly escalate into a discussion on killing people or launching physical attacks.
In the post below, taken from another alternative social media network, the author explains that the differences and hostility between races will always be present in our world and tells other users that being racist is the only way to survive.
Below, there is an example from the same site but from a different thread. The user who posted it is inciting people to shoot African-Americans:
Another type of alarming content we see are posts that involve declarations and a call to action in an attempt to rally others to take part in violent activities.
These spaces are used by people to discuss their radical opinions, provoke each other – but sometimes even declare their intentions to launch attacks. While sometimes these declarations are empty, often we see these threats come to life. This is where intelligence plays a key role in preventing hate attacks.
Below is an example taken from a video-based alternative social media platform, where a user declares he will kill Mexicans:
In another post, taken from a different site, the user posted a picture of himself announcing his intentions to kill African-Americans.
Tracking extremist content on alternative social media platforms can provide crucial intelligence needed to prevent violent events in the future. This information which is written behind closed doors and hidden from the public eye, can save lives.