EXTREMISMDomestic Extremists’ Social Media Habits

Published 20 April 2022

A new study, bridging two leading databases on extremist hate and violence, found that individuals in both have been influenced by social media, and their web platform choices may mirror those of the general population.

Isolating and comparing the social media habits of two distinct types of extremists can better prepare justice system agencies to prevent and respond to extremist violence in the United States.

Research sponsored by the National Institute of Justice has found that study samples of individuals in the United States who have engaged in violent and non-violent hate crime and other forms of extremist crime were influenced by social media.

A key finding was that extremists in the study group may mirror the general population in their use of various social media platforms, particularly in terms of reliance on Facebook. Although the sample size was relatively small, and less than 20% of the study sample said they used Facebook, use of Facebook was found to be significantly higher than that of any other social media platform.

The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, or START, conducted the study of social media usage as a part of a broader investigation tapping two major national databases of extremist events and individuals:

·  ECDB - Extremist Crime Database. ECDB is a database that keeps track of violent attacks, homicides, and financial crimes carried out by extremists inside the United States. Attacks tracked in ECDB include bombings, shootings, or other violent assaults that resulted in at least one death. The database primarily, but not exclusively, tracks left-wing, jihadist, and right-wing extremists.

·  PIRUS - Profiles of Individual Radicalization in the United States. PIRUS is a database of individuals in the United States who radicalized to the point of violent or nonviolent ideologically motivated criminal activity, or ideologically motivated association with a foreign or domestic extremist organization. The PIRUS database includes individuals who would commonly be considered perpetrators of hate crime, that is, spontaneous violent or threatening acts against another individual on the basis of gender identity, race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, or sexual preference. In the PIRUS database, individuals are anonymous.

The research examined 2,100 cases in ECDB and 1,500 cases. Of these cases, 454 individuals in the PIRUS database were matched with individuals identified in ECDB