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FLASH ALERT: 4CHAN CHATTER: IMMINENT THREAT OF ATTACK ON THE US JEWISH COMMUNITY

Lydia Baccino, Giulia Provenza, Liz Pérez, NORTHCOM & Extremism

Salomon Montaguth, Radhika Ramalinga Venkatachalam, Álvaro Picón, Editors; Jennifer Loy, Chief Editor

April 3, 2023



4chan Logo[1]


The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) is issuing a FLASH ALERT to law enforcement and the Jewish community, including Synagogues, Community Centers, Jewish Neighborhoods, Jewish Schools, and individuals, in the face of increased antisemitic rhetoric online. Increased online hate will likely lead to physical violence against the Jewish community, with antisemitic content and conspiracy theories shared among like-minded individuals and antisemitic online groups. Online hate will also likely turn into offline, facilitating the propagation of copycats who will likely be encouraged by online antisemitic content and hate speech.


CTG is on HIGH alert for the safety of the Jewish community and institutions that may likely be the targets in the wake of an increase in online violence against them. There is a HIGH LIKELIHOOD that law enforcement officers and intelligence analysts will likely monitor online sources to deepen the investigation and prevent an escalation of physical violence. The possible locations of this targeted attack are likely to be Jewish religious sites, institutions, community centers, and schools. Given the HIGH LIKELIHOOD of this attack, raising awareness and notifying Jewish communities about the potential threat is of utmost importance.


4Chan is an imageboard website with a wide range of boards covering various subjects, such as adult content, politics, and video games. An anonymous user has exploited this platform to spread targeted messages against the Jewish community and to incite violence online. The messages included several images copied from different users and other social media platforms, with instances of using GIFs to represent elements of radicalization. In other cases, the user added specific information to the images, like personal and sensitive data of individuals who may likely be the attack targets. The personal information included addresses, phone numbers, and the social media accounts of the targets and their relatives. The online chatter incident comes at a time when antisemitic incidents reach a new high in the US.[2]

Social media’s loose and decentralized nature is ideal for exploitation by antisemitic and far-right groups.[3] With the dissemination of online antisemitic content, the user is likely willing to incite other viewers to commit acts of violence and engage with like-minded individuals and supposes an example of the digitization of antisemitism. Extremist groups or lone actors exploit social media and their deficits in removing antisemitic content to spread their message and reach their followers to transform online messages into real-life violence.[4] Consistent monitoring and control of social media can be critical to deterring the development of violent attacks and the escalation of hate speech against the Jewish community. Investigations are required to map, identify, and collect more data and information about potential perpetrators and online antisemitic groups.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) can perform threat assessments, threat detections, and situational awareness to monitor public social media and open domestic terrorism, hate crime, and violent crime inquiries to prevent the spread of online hate crimes.[5] Law enforcement can detect and defeat terrorism and targeted violence by identifying individuals who support or engage in ideologically-motivated online attacks to advance their political, social, or religious aims.[6] Cooperation between law enforcement and social media platforms will guarantee the most effective approach against online antisemitism.

The US Intelligence community will very likely focus on vulnerable locations likely to be the primary targets of the attack. There is a roughly even chance law enforcement will closely monitor known antisemitic groups to deter an attack and communicate early warnings. There is a roughly even chance law enforcement will increase their physical presence near synagogues and Jewish community centers, neighborhoods, and schools. Law enforcement will likely work closely with Jewish communities to guarantee safety and maintain public order, especially during the upcoming Passover. This holiday is truly important to the Jewish community because of its emphasis on freedom, independence, Jewish history and values. There is roughly even a chance that potential hate crimes against Jews will occur during this holiday as a deeper manifestation of hatred. It’s likely that anti-semitic contents targeting Jewish individuals will be disseminated online during these holidays, fueling stereotypes and further prejudices.

The escalation of online hate will likely lead to a new cycle of violence and hate crimes against the Jewish community, both online and offline. There is a roughly even chance for some users to interpret the 4chan posts as a call for action. Security companies and law enforcement will very likely monitor the main social media where the user and his potential followers are active to prevent any attack. Through long-term monitoring, more antisemitic individuals will almost certainly be identified, preventing them from promoting and engaging in online hate speech. A thorough investigation is essential to detect and limit the process of online radicalization. There is a roughly even chance that monitoring the behavior of certain online users can reveal patterns and help tech companies and law enforcement agencies track them down.

CTG recommends the Jewish community, including synagogues, community centers, neighborhoods, schools, and individuals, exercise extreme caution in the coming days, especially when displaying visible signs of their faith. Jewish worship sites and law enforcement should strengthen security measures around vulnerable or potential targets. Law enforcement should also increase the screening of persons of interest attending these areas. CTG recommends social media platforms collaborate with law enforcement to identify, map, and report antisemitic groups. Social media users should restrain from interacting (commenting, tagging, re-sharing) with antisemitic posts in any form, as social media algorithms will increase the post’s visibility. CTG recommends social media users report antisemitic online content to prevent its propagation. CTG’s OSINT team will continue to collect and analyze more data to identify new threats and discover users exploiting social media platforms to spread online hatred. CTG’s NORTHCOM and Extremism Teams will continue to analyze and monitor any further developments in the region and work closely with the OSINT team to gather more information and warn the public in the event of an escalation of hate crimes against the Jewish community.


CTG assesses that the current threat is HIGH given the confidence and the online hatred spread by specific users targeting the Jewish community on social media platforms. There is a roughly even chance that these online perpetrators will fuel conspiracy theories and inspire new extremist groups or “lone wolves” to follow, lead and praise their accomplishments. Specific Jewish religious sites should be put on HIGH alert for a potential attack, especially during the upcoming Passover holiday. Law enforcement is likely to limit the spread of antisemitic content and prevent acts of violence against the Jewish community by monitoring social media and online comment threads.


Analysis indicates that there is a HIGH PROBABILITY of online antisemitic speech propagating across social media platforms, LIKELY impacting the daily life of the Jewish community. It is VERY LIKELY that online antisemitic content will be shared on social media among like-minded individuals, LIKELY compromising the security of the Jewish community. It is LIKELY that online antisemitism will translate into offline actions, facilitating physical attacks against the Jewish community. There is a ROUGHLY EVEN CHANCE of an attack against the Jewish community occurring in the coming days as the online 4chan chatter’s sensitive information sharing might encourage antisemitic individuals, serving as a call for action.

 

[1] Logotype of the 4chan imageboard website by 4chan community support LLC

[2] Antisemitic Incidents Reach New High in U.S., Anti-Defamation League Says, The New York Times, March 2023, https://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/23/us/antisemitism-anti-defamation-league-report.html

[3] The Dark Side of Social Media: How it Fuels Antisemitism, Brandeis University, May 2022, https://www.brandeis.edu/jewish-experience/social-justice/2022/may/antisemitism-social-media.html

[4] How online hate turns into real-life violence, The Washington Post, November 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2018/11/30/how-online-hate-speech-is-fueling-real-life-violence/

[5] Federal Government Social Media Surveillance, Explained, Brennan Center for Justice, February 2022. https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/federal-government-social-media-surveillance-explained

[6] How Radicalization to Terrorism Occurs in the United States: What Research Sponsored by the National Institute of Justice Tells Us, National Institute of Justice, June 2018. https://www.ojp.gov/pdffiles1/nij/250171.pdf

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