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Security Brief: Extremism Week of December 6, 2021

Week of Monday, December 6, 2021 | Issue 62

Marina Amador, Extremism Team

Sachin Khunte, Editor; Cassandra Townsend, Senior Editor


Proud Boys members with covered faces[1]


Date: December 8, 2021

Location: Global

Parties involved: Twitter; Far-right extremists; anti-fascist activists; Telegram; Gab; Parler; Facebook; Instagram

The event: On December 8, 2021, Twitter announced that the company was reviewing its latest policy which gives users greater control over the images and videos they appear in. The announcement came after far-right extremists took advantage of the new privacy policy to target accounts posting anti-extremism content.[2] Far-right extremists organized on other social media platforms such as Telegram and Gab to encourage members to denounce Twitter accounts that posted images of individuals who attended far-right protests and rallies. A lack of effective mechanisms to verify the source of complaints in Twitter's new policy resulted in the company suspending accounts of several academics and activists dedicated to exposing Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and far-right extremists.[3]

Analysis & Implications:

  • Far-right extremists will likely take advantage of Twitter's new privacy policy to report activists, journalists, and academics who expose them online until Twitter amends the complaint verification system. Information provided by anti-extremist accounts is almost certainly helpful for law enforcement and citizens to identify far-right extremists. Suspension of these accounts will likely allow far-right extremists to remain undetected, and likely increase the likelihood of them conducting attacks.

  • Once Twitter amends the vulnerabilities of its new privacy policy, the new complaint mechanisms will very likely provide victims of doxxing and harassment an effective tool to denounce abuse on the platform. Groups traditionally targeted by far-right extremists, such as people of color, women, or LGBTQ individuals, will likely feel more confident reporting accounts that post their images online with malicious intent. Far-right extremists will likely continue targeting minority communities on Twitter without the implementation of an effective privacy policy by the social media company to reduce harassment and doxxing.

  • Far-right extremists will likely migrate to less regulated social media platforms such as Gab or Parler in response to Twitter’s amended privacy policy. Twitter's failure to identify complaints from extremists’ accounts almost certainly exposed the inability of social media platforms to effectively combat harassment and bullying on their platforms. Following the criticism Twitter received for its privacy policy, social media platforms such as Facebook or Instagram will likely invest in better harassment detection mechanisms to ensure that extremists cannot take advantage of them. More well–rounded harassment prevention systems on social media platforms will almost certainly lead to more effective strategies to identify extremists and very likely enable early deterrence of hate content dissemination.

Specialty reports are designed to inform clients of existing and emerging threats worldwide. To defeat terrorists and individuals intent on harming, it is critical to understand and investigate them. We collect and analyze intelligence on terrorists and extremists, their organizations, individuals who are threats, and their tactics and attacks to develop solutions to detect, deter, and defeat any act of terrorism or violence against our client. We also conduct investigations to identify persons of interest, threats, and determine the likelihood of a threat and how to stop them. To find out more about our products and services visit us at counterterrorismgroup.com.

[1]Proud Boys in Raleigh (2020 Nov)” by Anthony Crider licensed under Creative Commons

[2] ‘So vague, it invites abuse’: Twitter reviews controversial new privacy policy, The Guardian, December 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2021/dec/08/twitter-new-privacy-policy-far-right

[3] Far-right target critics with Twitter's new media policy, BBC News, December 2021, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-59547353


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