Press Release: Specialty Report Neo-Nazi Memes Analysis of Use of Social Media and Tech Platforms
“In recent years, there has been a resurgence of neo-nazi content online. This hateful rhetoric often takes the form of memes, videos, and articles that spread misinformation and conspiracy theories. Additionally, this content can also inspire people to commit acts of violence against marginalized groups, and individuals. As a result, it is important to be aware of the dangers of neo-nazi content and to take steps to counter its spread. This intelligence report will provide insight into some of the neo-Nazi content that is being disseminated through social media today. By understanding the nature and extent of this problem, we can begin to take steps to counter this threatening form of communication.“
Charley Gleeson, Christie Hui, Brianna Corrie, Chloe Bissett, Paula Ruiz Crespo, Max M, Laura Vasile, Counter Threat Strategic Communications Team (CTSC)
Week of Monday, May 30, 2022
A new report from the Counter Threat Strategic Communications (CTSC) team of The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) has shown that neo-Nazis have a visible presence on five different social media platforms. This report analyzes how neo-Nazi users on social media use meme culture to communicate with others, recruit to neo-Nazi groups, and radicalize others into neo-Nazi ideology. The report also considers current countermeasures in tackling neo-Nazi use of social media, and provides recommendations on how to better counter the evolving issue.
Summary of Key Findings
Of the five platforms analyzed, neo-Nazi content was discoverable on all platforms, despite varying prohibitions in terms of service. While some of these platforms explicitly banned extremist content, it is highly likely that they lack the capacity or subject-matter expertise to effectively identify and moderate neo-Nazi content.
Neo-Nazi online content mainly targeted adolescents and men in their 20s, as well as middle-aged white men, who likely feel alienated from society due to a lack of social interactions and integration. Women are less likely to feel comfortable or included in neo-Nazi online environments likely due to the misogynistic traits inherent to the ideology and are unlikely to interact with or create neo-Nazi memes. The younger demographic is very likely more attracted to creative, ironic, and satirical content online taking the form of extremist memes than older generations.
Likewise, young, white men very likely represent the main demographic group creating, sharing, and interacting with the content due to their higher familiarity with social media and literacy of the internet culture. It is also likely that these audiences feel more comfortable sharing these ideas through semi-anonymous channels like social media platforms than in real-life interactions, where confrontations or rejection as a response to homophobic, racist, or misogynistic views and offensive humor are more likely to occur.
Neo-Nazi content overwhelmingly relies on humor and memes to reach new audiences. Since this content often builds on mainstream memes or trends, some neo-Nazi content almost certainly reaches non-radicalized audiences without appearing overtly extreme. Furthermore, neo-Nazis almost certainly use this attempt at humor as a justification for their content when criticized by hosting platforms or other entities.
The neo-Nazi content had strong themes of pop culture, which likely served to neutralize extreme neo-Nazi ideas by infantilizing them through innocent fiction depictions. This neutralization results in efficient propaganda disguised under humoristic, harmless content, which likely makes it more appealing, soft, and in the end, efficient.
There is currently no unified approach for tackling neo-Nazi use of the internet, and current countermeasures are proving ineffective. The CTSC team recommends more collaboration, intelligence sharing, and involvement of subject-matter experts in content moderation, to ensure this type of content is effectively identified and moderated by tech platforms.