Hidden order in online extremism and its disruption by nudging collective chemistry

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August 18, 2020

Disrupting the emergence and evolution of potentially violent extremist movements is a crucial challenge. In recent months, Facebook has designated the new U.S. Boogaloo movement a violent antigovernment network and dangerous organization1, U.S. Congress has been alerted to potential Boogaloo violence2, and a Boogaloo member has been arrested for the death of a federal officer3. The Boogaloo movement came to prominence in the U.S. through Facebook in 2020, with a highly diverse mix of narratives ranging from Second Amendment gun rights and Black Lives Matter racism through to COVID-19 lockdown protests and upcoming U.S. elections, with members drawn from across conservative, libertarian and nihilistic ideologies. By contrast, ISIS (Islamic State) is a pro-jihad, antiU.S. movement whose significant growth in 2015 developed outside the U.S. on central European platforms such as VKontakte (see Supplementary Material SM). These movements vary dramatically in terms of their evolution, ideology, goals, geography and drivers such as political grievances, poverty and personality traits4,5,6. Existing extremism research has addressed such features in detail with great success4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16. Our focus provides a complementary, system-level understanding that yields fresh quantitative insight into their evolution and possible interventions.

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