The toxicity on social media creates victims online and online ecosystems that breed real-life hatred. Gab, a self-described “free speech” platform largely used by right wing extremists, has been the preferred platform for hatred and vitriol. Users include Robert Bowers, who posted on the site just before he massacred congregants at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.
Social media platforms such as Twitter consider the best ways to respond to hate and extremism, including by “de-platforming” – or banning users who violate their terms of service – to remove the toxicity on their platforms. There is some debate around de-platforming and whether it solves or just suppresses hate and extremism, and also whether it reduces extremism on one platform that only resurfaces – potentially more virulently – on others.
The Network Contagion Research Institute (NCRI) is a group of researchers who have partnered with ADL to look at challenging social media analysis. NCRI director and co-founder Joel Finkelstein, who conducted the study and co-authored the report, is a COE research fellow.
This line of research includes a deep dive into how Twitter bans may serve to exacerbate Gab’s virulent ecosystem. What we found is that when Twitter de-platforms a group of users, Gab often treats those moments as recruitment opportunities