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The Consequences of Right-Wing Extremism on the Internet

In 2002, the ADL wrote a report exposing the various ways right-wing extremists had begun to use the Internet. Read the comprehensive report, The Consequences of Right Wing Extremism on the Internet (PDF).

INTRODUCTION

The Internet has provided the far-right fringe with formerly inconceivable opportunities. Online, racists, anti-Semites, and anti-government extremists can reach a much larger audience than ever before and can more easily portray themselves as legitimate. 

Anyone using the Internet may inadvertently be exposed to hate online. When uninformed or easily influenced people – particularly children – come across hate propaganda, they can fall prey to its deceptive reasoning and adopt hateful beliefs themselves, sometimes going so far as to act on what they have read.

Gauging the affects of online hate on this vast population of Internet users presents enormous difficulties. No reliable measurement has been taken of the number of Internet users who find and read hateful material online. Nor can one safely generalize about the ways in which this material affects the beliefs and actions of those who read it. Yet there is a subset of this enormous group of Internet users about whom substantial information does exist: known, active, right-wing extremists.

Though the number of active right-wing extremists is relatively small, the harm they can cause is significant. By spreading their views, racists, anti-Semites, and anti-government "patriots" encourage and sustain prejudice in the mainstream. In addition, these extremists are often ready to break the law in support of their beliefs.

The Internet has provided the means for extremists to create an "electronic community of hate." In the Internet age, extremists are no longer isolated from others who share their beliefs. Now, they can communicate with thousands of their compatriots with the click of a mouse, from the comfort of their own homes. Just as it has benefited millions of ordinary people, the Internet has profited, connected, and inspired extremists in previously unimaginable ways.

This report will detail three important, measurable respects in which the "electronic community of hate" strengthens the work of right-wing extremists offline. First of all, the Internet has provided them with instant and anonymous access to propaganda that inspires and guides criminal activity. Secondly, it has helps them to more effectively coordinate their activities. Finally, it offers them new ways to make money. 

These, then, are actual, measurable consequences of right-wing extremism on the Internet and should be of concern to us all.

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