Policing online hate groups is like a never-ending game of whack-a-mole: moderators remove one neo-Nazi page on Facebook, only for another to appear hours later. It’s an approach that isn’t working, but a team of physicists have used a study of networks to suggest several alternative strategies that might.
The team from George Washington University examined the dynamics of “hate communities”—groups that organize individuals with similar views—on social-media platforms Facebook and VKontakte (the equivalent in Russia) over a few months. They found that these networks are remarkably globally interconnected and resilient at the micro level when attacked, crossing platforms and jumping between countries, continents, and languages. Real-world evidence of this interconnectedness can be seen in the way white extremist attackers in Norway, New Zealand, and the US have explicitly drawn inspiration from each other.