On Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security shared that the rise of online hate groups could lead to even more racist violence. Following last month’s massacre in Buffalo, New York—in which ten Black people were murdered—the nation is seeking answers when it comes to domestic terrorism.
Along with the FBI, Homeland Security is working alongside local and state agencies to raise awareness about how social media forums could serve as precursors for violence in the upcoming months.
Social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok and Telegram have become tools for white supremacists—consisting of mostly young men—to spread racist ideology as well as memes and videos. Because of how commonplace they have become, it’s increasingly difficult for law enforcement to monitor.
Michael German, an FBI agent who once infiltrated white hate groups in an effort to thwart them, told the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday that differentiating hollow internet threats from actually dangerous and violent people has become a daunting task.
“It seems intuitive that effective social media monitoring might provide clues to help law enforcement prevent attacks,” German stated. “After all, the white supremacist attackers in Buffalo, Pittsburgh and El Paso all gained access to materials online and expressed their hateful, violent intentions on social media.” He then stated: “So many false alarms drown out threats.”
The sexist, racist and antisemitic content has incited thousands of followers. The white nationalist groups also take detestable stances on abortion, guns, immigration and LGBTQ rights. Sadly, people hiding behind computer screens to unleash hate onto marginalized groups is nothing new. Hopefully, it will be treated with more urgency and importance than in the past.