When Twitter Bans Extremists, GAB Puts Out the Welcome Mat

The first in a series of reports co-authored by the Network Contagion Research Institute and ADL’s Center on Extremism

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

Read the Full report here


Post Gazette – When Twitter bans, Gab grows

Gab.com, the social media site apparently favored by Robert Bowers in the months before the Tree of Life massacre in which he is charged, grows when Twitter bans extremist voices, according to a report issued Tuesday by the Anti-Defamation League and the Network Contagion Research Institute.

The report characterizes bans by Twitter as the lifeblood of Gab. It raises the question of whether banning voices deemed “hateful” from given social media platforms is the most effective way of combating communication that spurs violence.

Read the article here

Read the ADL Report Here


Researchers have recently discovered that anyone can trick hate speech detectors with simple changes to their language—and typos are just one way that neo-Nazis are foiling the algorithms.

Pacific Standard interviews Professor Jeremy Blackburn and NCRI Director Dr Joel Finkelstein about the research and algorithms we use to understand hate speech in social networks.

Read the article here



Silicon Valley’s Year in Hate

On Oct. 26, 2018, authorities arrested 56-year-old Cesar Sayoc in South Florida after he mailed 14 crudely constructed pipe bombs to outspoken critics of President Trump over the span of five days.

His social media accounts were dedicated to extreme right-wing conspiracy theories attacking prominent liberals, such as philanthropist George Soros and Bill and Hillary Clinton. He also regularly circulated conspiratorial content about undocumented immigrants and Islamic terrorism, and he reportedly told a former co-worker, “Everybody that wasn’t white and wasn’t a white supremacist didn’t belong in the world.”

Read SPLC’s report citing our research here


East Boston Reacts To White Supremacist Fliers

Jenna Fisher from Patch wrote an article about recent white supremacist fliers popping up in Boston citing our work. After fliers promoting white supremacy appeared around East Boston Thursday, several residents sprang into action, walking street to street to tear them down and prompting the mayor and other elected officials to release a statement denouncing the message.

Read more here

Digital Anti-Semitism: From Irony to Ideology – Jewish Review of Books

Professor Gavriel Rosenfeld  wrote an excellent article on The Jewish Review of Books on digital antisemitism, citing our recent publication

As the American Jewish community mourns for the martyrs of the Tree of Life synagogue and assesses the historical significance of their murders, it should be under no illusions about the dangers it faces. The history of domestic lone wolf attacks, the ease of online anti-Semitic self-radicalization, and the ubiquity of firearms in the United States are a toxic combination that must be monitored with unprecedented vigilance.

Read his article here 

Two years after #Pizzagate showed the dangers of hateful conspiracies, they’re still rampant on YouTube

We collaborated with Craig Timberg and other journalists at the Washington Post to collect and expose the fact the YouTube has been a repository for hate.

A year after YouTube’s chief executive promised to curb “problematic” videos, it continues to harbor and even recommend hateful, conspiratorial videos, allowing racists, anti-Semites and proponents of other extremist views to use the platform as an online library for spreading their ideas.

YouTube is particularly valuable to users of Gab.ai and 4chan, social media sites that are popular among hate groups but have scant video capacity of their own. Users on these sites link to YouTube more than to any other website, thousands of times a day, according to the recent work of Data and Society and the Network Contagion Research Institute, both of which track the spread of hate speech.

Read More Here


Pittsburgh Post Gazette – How Robert Bowers went from conservative to white nationalist

Rich Lord from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette wrote an interesting article detailing some of Robert Bower’s past as well as his engagement on Gab. Joel Finkelstein, NCRI Director, was interview for this article and provided insight into his behavior on Gab and about Gab in general.

Read the article here:



On Gab, domestic terrorist Robert Bowers engaged with several influential alt-right figures

Southern Povertry Law Center’s Hatewatch released a study with NCRI on Robert Bower’s Gab postings.

In the months leading up to Robert Bowers’ murderous rampage, he was in deep on the social media platform Gab, frequently reposting content from influential alt-right accounts including Jared Wyand and Bradley Dean Griffin.

Read the full report by Hatewatch here: https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2018/11/01/gab-domestic-terrorist-robert-bowers-engaged-several-influential-alt-right-figures