Radical Tubes: Social Media and Rightist Escalation

Discussion in 'Politics' started by Tiassa, Aug 29, 2019.

  1. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

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    Via Anti-Defamation League↱, 2017:

    You can't discuss the alt right without mentioning the “alt lite,” a loosely connected movement of right-wing activists who reject the overtly white supremacist ideology of the alt right, but whose hateful impact is more significant than their “lite” name suggests. The alt lite embraces misogyny and xenophobia, and abhors “political correctness” and the left.

    While the alt right has been around for years, the current iteration is still figuring out what it is—and isn't. And it's early days for the alt lite, which means both movements' ideologies are still somewhat fluid, as are the lines that separate them.

    (sigh)

    Remember, they did this to themselves:

    The term “alt lite” was created by the alt right to differentiate itself from right-wing activists who refused to publicly embrace white supremacist ideology.

    Today, the alt lite, sometimes referred to as the New Right, is loosely-connected movement whose adherents generally shun white supremacist thinking, but who are in step with the alt right in their hatred of feminists and immigrants, among others. Many within the alt lite sphere are virulently anti-Muslim; the group abhors everyone on “the left” and traffics in conspiracy theories, including #Pizzagate, which claimed there was evidence of a child slavery ring operating inside a DC pizzeria. The series of increasingly outrageous lies led to death threats against the pizzeria's owner and employees, and ultimately resulted in a gunman opening fire inside the restaurant in an attempt to “save” the imaginary children.

    Some former alt right cheerleaders, including Mike Cernovich, migrated to the alt lite after refusing to openly espouse the alt right's explicitly white supremacist beliefs. Like the alt right, the alt lite is largely populated by young people, and has a prolific online presence, using blogs and podcasts to broadcast dissatisfaction with the media and what they sweepingly refer to as “globalization.”

    Alt right writer and white supremacist Greg Johnson describes the difference between alt right and alt lite this way: “The alt light is defined by civic nationalism as opposed to racial nationalism,” which is a defining characteristic of the alt right.

    Remember, this is a couple years old. The question of alt-lite hasn't really been coming up much in my circles, as it's mostly been alt-right and IDW, such that the blur and overlap, like Cernovich, doesn't stand out as "lite". That's not to say I don't remember it, though.

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    But the distinctions are important, and come up in Ribeiro, et al., "Auditing Radicalization Pathways on YouTube" (2018), presently in preprint, submitted last week; the paper, presented last year at the Association for Computing Machinery Woodstock '18 symposium, considers the flow of users from "alt-lite" and "intellectual dark web" into "alt-right". The abstract:

    Non-profits and the media claim there is a radicalization pipeline on YouTube. Its content creators would sponsor fringe ideas, and its recommender system would steer users towards edgier content. Yet, the supporting evidence for this claim is mostly anecdotal, and there are no proper measurements of the influence of YouTube's recommender system. In this work, we conduct a large scale audit of user radicalization on YouTube. We analyze 331,849 videos of 360 channels which we broadly classify into: control, the Alt-lite, the Intellectual Dark Web (I.D.W.), and the Alt-right—channels in the I.D.W. and the Alt-lite would be gateways to fringe far-right ideology, here represented by Alt-right channels. Processing more than 79M comments, we show that the three communities increasingly share the same user base; that users consistently migrate from milder to more extreme content; and that a large percentage of users who consume Alt-right content now consumed Alt-lite and I.D.W. content in the past. We also probe YouTube's recommendation algorithm, looking at more than 2M million recommendations for videos and channels between May and July 2019. We find that Alt-lite content is easily reachable from I.D.W. channels via recommendations and that Alt-right channels may be reached from both I.D.W. and Alt-lite channels. Overall, we paint a comprehensive picture of user radicalization on YouTube and provide methods to transparently audit the platform and its recommender system.

    And some detail from the Introduction:

    On YouTube, channels that discuss social, political and cultural subjects have flourished. Among them, one may find individuals such as Jordan Peterson and Joe Rogan, associated with the so-called Intellectual Dark Web (I.D.W.)—Iconoclastic thinkers, academics, and media personalities—but also openly declared white nationalists like Richard Spencer and Jared Taylor, which have been broadly referred to as Alt-right.

    These individuals do not only share the same platform, but often publicly engage in debates and conversations on the website. All the previously mentioned individuals, for example, are connected by joint video appearances: Jordan Peterson was interviewed by Joe Rogan, who interviewed YouTuber Carl Benjamin, who debated Richard Spencer, who was in a panel with Jared Taylor in an Alt-right conference. According to Lewis, this proximity would create "radicalization pathways" for audience members and content creators. Anecdotal examples of these journeys are plenty, including Roosh V's content creator trajectory, going from a Pick Up artist to Alt-right supporter, and Caleb Cain's testimony of his YouTube-driven radicalization.

    Some of it might even sound familiar:

    A key issue in dealing with topics like radicalization and hate speech is the lack of agreement over what is "hateful" or "extreme". A work-around is to perform community-based analyses, rather than trying to label what is or is not hateful. For the purpose of this work, we consider three communities that have been associated with user radicalization, and that differ int he extremity of their content: the Intellectual Dark Web (I.D.W.), the Alt-lite, and the Alt-right. While the I.D.W. discuss controversial subjects like race and I.Q., the Alt-right sponsor fringe ideas like that of a white ethnostate. Somewhere in the middle, individuals of the Alt-lite deny do embrace white supremacist ideology, although they consistently flirt with concepts associated with it (e.g., the great replacement, globalist conspiracies, etc.).

    Jeffrey Sachs sketches a statistic in a tweet thread↱:

    For example, about 40% of people who commented on Alt-Right videos in 2018 were commenting only on IDW or Alt-lite videos in previous years. And in case you were wondering, these comments were overwhelmingly positive or neutral. Of 900 randomly sampled, only 5 were critical.

    Moreover, the authors argue that the three communities increasingly share an overlapping audience of YouTube commenters. So while IDW has historically represented a smaller pipeline to the Alt-Right, this is changing.

    Lead author Manoel Ribeiro explained, in his own tweet thread↱:

    1) We looked at the growth of the I.D.W., the Alt-lite and the Alt-right throughout the last decade in terms of videos, likes, and views, finding a steep rise in activity and engagement in the communities of interest when compared with the control channels;

    2) We inspect the intersection of commenting users within the communities, finding they increasingly share the same user base. For example, we find that more than half of users who commented on Alt-right channels in 2018 also comment on Alt-lite and on I.D.W. channels;

    3) We also find that the intersection is not only growing due to new users but that there is significant user migration among the communities being studied. Users that initially comment only on content from the I.D.W. or the Alt-lite throughout the years consistently start to on Alt-right content. These users are a significant fraction of the Alt-right commenting user base. Interestingly, although control channels share, on a yearly basis, a significant number of users with Alt-right channels, we cannot observe significant user migration from them.

    4) Lastly, we take a look at the impact of YouTube's recommendation algorithms, running simulations on recommendation graphs. Our analyses show that, particularly through the channel recommender system Alt-lite channels are easily discovered from I.D.W. channels, and that Alt-right channels may be reached from the two other communities (!) ....

    The implications are stark; Ribeiro continues:

    a) I believe that popular content creators like those in the Intellectual Dark Web, should be aware that this process is happening I genuinely believe this is not what they want, and they are in a good position to try to weaken fringe ideologies like white supremacy.

    b) YouTube has to be held accountable and take action. I believe our work presents significant evidence that a large scale radicalization happened on the website. This process has led to horrific acts of terrorism, and should be addressed accordingly.

    There has been a lot of chatter orbiting socmed radicalization, and as the papers and analyses emerge, we really shouldn't pretend surprise. It hasn't really been subtle.
     
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  3. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

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    Notes for #1↑ Above

    @JeffreyASacchs. "For example, about 40% of people who commented on Alt-Right videos in 2018 were commenting only on IDW or Alt-lite videos in previous years. And in case you were wondering, these comments were overwhelmingly positive or neutral. Of 900 randomly sampled, only 5 were critical." Twitter. 26 August 2019. Twitter.com. 28 August 2019. http://bit.ly/2zrGTXZ

    @manoelribeiro. "1) We looked at the growth of the I.D.W., the Alt-lite and the Alt-right throughout the last decade in terms of videos, likes, and views, finding a steep rise in activity and engagement in the communities of interest when compared with the control channels". Twitter. 23 August 2019. Twitter.com. 28 August 2019. http://bit.ly/2Hx1ej3

    Anti-Defamation League. "From Alt Right to Alt Lite: Naming the Hate". 2017. ADL.org. 28 August 2019. http://bit.ly/2NOgKen

    Ribeiro Manoel Horta, Raphael Ottoni, Robert West, Virgilio A.F. Almaeida, and Wagner Meira. "Auditing Radicalization Pathways on YouTube". Preprint. 22 August 2019. arXiv.org. 28 August 2019. http://bit.ly/2NEF02u
     
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