The Online Battleground The Use Of Online Platforms By Extremist Groups And Haktivists To Form Networks And Collective Indentities

This thesis examines the use of social and virtual media by white supremacists, Islamic extremists and the hacktivist groups that surveil and dispute them. Social media platforms are commonly to use share opinions, have conversations and create followings of like-minded people. Extremist groups have adapted to new technologies to control their communications, allowing them to shape the way in which their messages are seen and understood by a global audience. Hacktivists use similar tactics and sites to gain traction for their movements against those they oppose. The research questions at the center of this project explored the functionality of digital platforms that enable extremist groups and hackers to disseminate their ideologies en masse to a global audience, and how the use of metaphors of war aid in enticing individuals to engage. The platforms were chosen as they facilitated the tracing of communication and interactions between hackers and extremists with those who become participants on those sites. Data collection focused on textual and graphical uploads, tweets, and forum posts on these platforms, as well as the interfaces of the websites through which the groups choose to interact. The data was analyzed using actor-network theory and critical theories of race. The results of this research showed that platforms make possible rapid and widespread dissemination of the beliefs of the hate groups, as well as the circulation of instructions on how to gain traction for their movements. Becoming a part of the networks created by these platforms allows new actors to modify their behaviors to emulate those they are interacting with. Users on the sites shape their identities based on the content they read, as well as the relationships they form with others in their networks. By understanding the way in which the groups use social media platforms to become accessible by their intended audience, it is possible to determine how followers shift from engaging to carrying out orders.

Tags: Online, Social Media, White Supremacy