Media Room

The following news features cite commentary and/or research from Network Contagion Research Institute:

4/8/20 – WEAPONIZED INFORMATION OUTBREAK: A Case Study on COVID-19, Bioweapon Myths, and the Asian Conspiracy Meme

Violent, ethnic hate is exacerbated instantaneously by outbreaks of weaponized information during episodes of viral pandemics. Even as intelligence and law enforcement chart new waves of attacks against Asian citizens, they remain challenged to understand how social media empowers the self-organization of these massive waves of violence from weaponized information. 

As paranoia now rises around COVID-19, several major challenges prevent the protection of these vulnerable outgroups from ethnic hate, especially on social media. Objectively identifying which groups attract hostility in a timely fashion, cataloging cryptic, hateful language and specific conspiracies as they evolve and determining which communities and actors source hostility—all pose significant challenges to law enforcement and intelligence.

9/19/19 – White Supremacist Allegedly Threatened Black Charlottesville City Council Candidate Until He Dropped Out of Race

An alleged white supremacist has been charged with targeting a black Charlottesville, Virginia, activist running for city council with violent racist threats, authorities said Wednesday. Those threats led the activist, a deacon and co-founder of Charlottesville’s Black Lives Matter chapter, to drop his campaign, according to prosecutors.

Replatforming Unreality

An examination of alt-tech online ecosystems and the dangers these hotbeds of self-reinforcing extremism pose to security, politics and society.

9/7/19 – Conspiracy Files: The Billionaire Global Mastermind

Investigating how multi=billionaire George Soros has become a bogeyman around the world – castigated not just by bloggers, but now by presidents and prime ministers. But are the allegations of secret Soros plots to overthrow governments and flood countries with migrants simply the product of resurgent anti-Semitism?

8/7/19 – How Hate-Filled Groups Incite Violence From the Extreme Corners of the Internet

Mass shootings have become all too common in America, with attacks monthly, if not weekly, now. In the wake of Gilroy, Dayton and El Paso, it’s worth noting that the frequency of these attacks was predicted a year ago by a man who studies hate speech on social media.

6/26/19 – Pro-Trump message board ‘quarantined’ by Reddit following violent threats

The biggest forum for supporters of President Trump on Reddit has been “quarantined” following months of incitements to violence and other offensive behavior, the tech giant said Wednesday, in a move that could further inflame conservatives’ claims of social-media bias.

5/13/19 – No Lone Shooter: How Anti-Semitism Is Winning New Converts on the Internet

The man accused of killing a woman and injuring three people in a shooting at a Poway synagogue in late April is expected to appear in court this week to face more than 100 federal charges, including obstruction of the free exercise of religion and hate crimes.

4/10/19 – Gab and 8chan: Home to Terrorist Plots Hiding in Plain Sight

New analysis of online behavior suggests similar ideological motivations and radicalization methods when comparing the perpetrators of the Pittsburgh and Christchurch massacres. Both killers announced in their preferred internet forums that they were about to commit violence and seemed to identify their fellow forum participants as community members who might share their propensity to commit violence. Both killers were consumed by the conspiracy of a “white genocide.” Both Gab and 8chan – the go-to forums for Robert Bowers and Brenton Tarrant, respectively – are rife with white supremacist, hateful, anti-Semitic bigotry.

4/10/19 – Alleged Pittsburgh And Christchurch Shooters Had Similar Online Activity, Report Finds

A new report from the Anti-Defamation League shows similarities in the online activity of the men accused of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting and the Christchurch, New Zealand mosque shooting. Both men frequently posted about “white genocide” on fringe websites, and announced their intentions to commit violence before their respective attacks.

4/9/19 – Report rips online haunts of accused Tree of Life, New Zealand shooters as platforms for extremism

The Anti-Defamation League says an analysis of the online behavior of Robert Bowers, charged with killing 11 at a Pittsburgh synagogue, and Brenton Tarrant, accused of murdering 50 Muslims in New Zealand, shows that both used similar online forums that promote a “white genocide” conspiracy theory and warns that the platforms are being used to radicalize likeminded extremists to commit similar crimes.

4/9/19 – How ‘Echo Chambers of Hate’ on Social Media Fuel Right-Wing Violence

An examination of social media posts by two recent mass killers by the Anti-Defamation League suggests that a global shadow community of white supremacists goads its members into deadly hate crimes.

3/26/2019 – Can We Block a Shooter’s Viral Aspirations? How to curb the exposure of videos like that of the shootings in New Zealand.

In “We’re Asking the Wrong Questions of YouTube and Facebook After New Zealand,” Charlie Warzel wrote about the online impact of the video streamed allegedly by the gunman during the shootings in Christchurch and the need for social media and tech companies to take more responsibility for the content posted by extremists on their platforms.

Here Are a Few of the Peer-Reviewed Reports, Published by Members of the NCRI Leadership Team:

“A Quantitative Approach to Understanding Online Antisemitism”

by Joel Finkelstein, Savvas Zannettou, Barry Bradlyn, Jeremy Blackburn.

A new wave of growing antisemitism, driven by fringe Web communities, is an increasingly worrying presence in the socio-political realm. The ubiquitous and global nature of the Web has provided tools used by these groups to spread their ideology to the rest of the Internet. Although the study of antisemitism and hate is not new, the scale and rate of change of online data has impacted the efficacy of traditional approaches to measure and understand this worrying trend. In this paper, we present a large-scale, quantitative study of online antisemitism.

“On the Origins of Memes by Means of Fringe Web Communities.” (2018)

by Savvas Zannettou, Tristan Caulfield, Jeremy Blackburn, Emiliano De Cristofaro, Michael Sirivianos, Gianluca Stringhini, Guillermo Suarez-Tangil. In Proceedings of the ACM Internet Measurement Conference (IMC), 2018 (Distinguished Paper Award).

Internet memes are increasingly used to sway and manipulate public opinion. This prompts the need to study their propagation, evolution, and influence across the Web. In this paper, we detect and measure the propagation of memes across multiple Web communities, using a processing pipeline based on perceptual hashing and clustering techniques, and a dataset of 160M images from 2.6B posts gathered from Twitter, Reddit, 4chan’s Politically Incorrect board (/pol/), and Gab, over the course of 13 months.

“What is Gab? A Bastion of Free Speech or an Alt-Right Echo Chamber?” (2018)

Savvas Zannettou, Barry Bradlyn, Emiliano De Cristofaro, Michael Sirivianos, Gianluca Stringhini, Haewoon Kwak, Jeremy Blackburn. In Proceedings of the WWW Companion, 2018.

Over the past few years, a number of new “fringe” communities, like 4chan or certain subreddits, have gained traction on the Web at a rapid pace. However, more often than not, little is known about how they evolve or what kind of activities they attract, despite recent research has shown that they influence how false information reaches mainstream communities.