Detecting Potential Warning Behaviors of Ideological Radicalization in an Alt-Right Subreddit

Over the past few years, new ideological movements like the Alt-Right have captured the attention and concern of both mainstream media, policy makers, and scholars alike. Today, the methods by which right-wing extremists are radicalized are increasingly taking place within social media platforms and online communities. However, no research has yet investigated methods for proactively detecting online communities that may be displaying overall warning signs of mass ongoing ideological and political radicalization. In our work, we use a variety of text analysis methods to investigate the behavioral patterns of a radical right-wing community on Reddit (r/altright) over a 6-month period until right before it was banned for violation of Reddit terms of service. We find that this community showed aggregated behavioral patterns that aligned with past literature on warning behaviors of individual extremists in online environments, and that these behavioral patterns were not seen in a comparison group of eight other online political communities, similar in size and user engagement. Our research helps build upon the established literature on the detection of extremism in online environments, and has implications for proactive monitoring of online communities.

Tags: alt-right, Radicalisation, Reddit