theatlantic | Facebook, where nearly half of Americans get their news, has borne the brunt of the ire, both for creating echo-chambers of partisan news and for failing to promote high-quality information over false drivel. But online extremism researchers say America’s misinformation problem is bigger than Facebook. They are also pointing fingers at sites like 4chan, Twitter and Reddit, online free-for-alls that lack Facebook’s relatively strict stance on hate-speech and have allowed racist communities to flourish in recent years. These forums have grown angrier and more multitudinous since Trump announced his candidacy, and while it’s not yet clear how much they contributed to the triumph of Trump, they certainly lined up behind him.
“When we talk about online radicalization we always talk about Muslims. But the radicalization of white men online is at astronomical levels,” the journalist Siyanda Mohutsiwa, who said she has been following the so-called “alt-right” forums on Reddit for years, wrote in a Twitter thread earlier this week. “These online groups found young white men at their most vulnerable & convinced them liberals were colluding to destroy white Western manhood.”
Groups that oppose immigration and political correctness, such as neo-Nazis, white nationalists, and the “alt-right,” have bloomed online in recent years. (It’s worth noting that these groups consider themselves distinct, and most don’t use the term “racist;” at most, they prefer the term “racialist.”) A study published in September by George Washington University extremism researcher J.M. Berger found “major American white nationalist movements on Twitter added about 22,000 followers since 2012, an increase of about 600 percent.” Berger found that people who followed white nationalists on Twitter referenced Trump “more than almost any other topic.”