Examining the Developmental Pathways of Online Posting Behavior in Violent Right-Wing Extremist Forums

Many researchers, practitioners, and policymakers are concerned about online communities that are known to facilitate violent right-wing extremism, but little is empirically known about these digital spaces in general and the developmental posting behaviors that make up these spaces in particular. In this study, group-based trajectory modeling—derived from a criminal career paradigm—was used to identify posting trajectories found in the open-access sections of the Iron March and Fascist Forge forums, both of which have gained notoriety for their members’ online advocacy of violence and acts of violence carried out by them. Multinomial logistic regression and analysis of variance were then used to assess whether posters’ time of entry into the violent forums predicted trajectory group assignment. Overall, the results highlight a number of similarities and differences in posting behaviors within and across platforms, many of which may inform future risk factor frameworks used by law enforcement and intelligence agencies to identify credible threats online. We conclude with a discussion of the implications of this analysis, followed by a discussion of study limitations and avenues for future research.

Tags: Discussion forums, Group-based trajectory modeling, Internet, Posting behaviors, Right-wing extremism