UNDERSTANDING THE EFFECTS OF SOCIAL MEDIA ON THE STRATEGIES OF FAR-RIGHT EXTREMIST GROUPS IN THE UNITED STATES
Maloney, Diego A
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Amid a concurrent rise of digital communication and far-right extremist groups in the United States, political violence has become increasingly more common and poses a larger threat to national security. Past research has shown that far-right armed social movements in the U.S. have been adept at navigating new digital mediums as they materialize from the early days of the Internet up to the modern day to aid in their overall goals. This study aims to determine if social media use as a tool has fundamentally changed the strategies that far-right groups employ and, if so, to what degree. Based on a review of the literature of the commonalities of successful armed social movements (ASMs) and the relationship far-right groups have with the Internet and its facets, a thematic cross-case analysis was done of four prominent far-right ASMs representing two distinct era of Internet history, pre- and post-social media. Analysis of all cases demonstrated that though post-social media groups modified previously successful strategies in order to connect with younger, more tech savvy audiences, the general types of strategies remained the same. The results indicate that far-right groups of all eras utilize identical strategies in different ways to best fit their particular needs and environment meaning that social media has not necessarily profoundly changed the way contemporary far-right extremist groups operate or the strategies they utilize.