White nationalists and self-proclaimed Nazi sympathizers in the U.S. are actively using Twitter — and are far more popular than Islamic extremists on the platform, claims a new study from George Washington University.
The report found that eighteen major American white nationalist movements on Twitter have accumulated an additional 22,000 followers since 2012, an increase of more than 600 percent in four years. While Twitter has been busy clamping down on ISIS-related activity on its platform as a result of governmental pressure, groups like the American Nazi Party have been using the site with “relative impunity,” states the report.
“White nationalists and Nazis outperformed ISIS in average friend and follower counts by a substantial margin,” writes J.M. Berger, the report’s author and a fellow with the school’s Program on Extremism. “Nazis had a median follower count almost eight times greater than ISIS supporters, and a mean count more than 22 times greater.”
Among the biggest talking points for these groups was the concept of “white genocide” and the view that “white race” is endangered by the increasing diversity of society.
The study also found that followers of white nationalist groups on Twitter were “heavily invested” in Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Hahtags associated with Trump — including #trump, #trump2016, and #makeamericagreatagain — were among the top 10 hashtags used by users identified as Nazi sympathizers, and among the top 5 hashtags for white supremacists.
Berger stated in an interview that Twitter faced additional difficulties applying its policy regulations prohibiting hateful conduct to white nationalist groups in comparison to ISIS. Berger pointed out that these groups tend to be less cohesive than Islamic militants and present greater free speech complications, reports Reuters.
After years spent battling against any reform of its site under the pretense of its free speech credentials, Twitter has been forced to take action against extremists and trolls on its platform. The company recently released a statement claiming that since last year it had suspended 360,000 accounts responsible for promoting extremism. In July, it also purged its service of a number of trolls who were harassing Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones.