Updated Facebook co-membership graphs

I’ve updated the Facebook co-membership graphs (see original post) for my upcoming talk at the International Conference on Computational Social Science (IC2S2) to be held at Northwestern University in July. (extended abstract – PDF)

This talk will include data through the end of March, 2018.

Once again, larger nodes = more people. Closer placement between nodes on the graph mean more folks in common.

What do we learn? There are some ideologies that are woven much more naturally into the fabric of a “united” far-right, as opposed to other ideologies, which will be harder to integrate.

Upcoming work will look at groups with nativist ideologies, including anti-Muslim, anti-Immigrant, and how those correspond to Anti-Government/Patriot/Militia and White Nationalist beliefs.

 

Far-Right Extremist Group Co-Membership on Facebook

As Wired recently reported, I have built a large dataset of far-right extremist groups in order to learn about their movement and figure out how they operate so that we can keep our communities safe.

Where does the data come from?

Much of my data comes from public, online sources. For example, despite Facebook claiming to be “no place for hate”, I have found that the Facebook social network is actually a very rich source of data about hate groups and the extreme far-right. For 500,000 members of 1,336 different far-right groups and events, Facebook is the perfect place for recruitment and community-building.

No place for hate?

In this blog post, I describe how I divided these 1,336 groups into 11 different far-right extremist ideologies (following the SPLC’s and ADL’s descriptions of these beliefs), and performed some social network data mining to answer questions about group co-membership.

What can we learn from this data?

Since the far-right was attempting to “unite” itself by holding events such as the August 12 Charlottesville rally (recall that this event was literally called “Unite the Right”), I wondered: Do groups from different ideologies share members in common? Which groups have the most members in common? 

What are the different ideologies represented?

I originally had 9 different far-right ideologies in the classification system, and have since expanded to 11, as shown in the table below.

To classify each group or event, I evaluated the text and emojis used the group name and description, as well as text and symbols found in the group cover photo, and the public content if viewable (discussion comments, photos, and so on.)

Primarily, I use Facebook’s own recommendation system for finding new groups (“Suggested Groups”). I also use their search API for groups with keywords and concepts related to a particular ideology.

Special note since some right-wing conspiracy theory web sites are misreporting this fact: Keywords alone are NEVER sufficient to classify groups or to select them for inclusion. With Google now indexing over 620 million Facebook groups, and only 1,336 in my database, obviously I am not just randomly including every group that matches a keyword! That is a ridiculous assertion. For example: “rebel” is a very generic word, and there are many thousands of groups with that word in the title. As explained above, I follow the SPLC’s and ADL’s descriptions, and I manually evaluate every single group for a match. If a group doesn’t clearly qualify (by name, photo, content, and/or description), that group CANNOT be included.

Ideology Count of groups Concepts related to this ideology
Neo-Confederate** 347 Confederate, League of the South, rebel, confederate flag, secession, dixie, CSA (full description)
White Nationalist** 254 White Lives Matter, identitarian, KKK, nationalist, American Guard, tradwives, tradlife, White Pride Worldwide, 1488, Soldiers/Sons of Odin, racist Odinism/Asatru, True Cascadia, volkish, sunwheel (full description)
Alt-Right** 210 Kek/Kekistan, Pepe the frog, Groyper, Fashwave, Pinochet, helicopter rides, memes, anti-SJW, Richard Spencer (full description)
AntiGovernment/Militia** 183 Militia, 3%, three percent, III, III%, Oath Keepers, patriot militias, Anti-Obama/birtherism, Molon labe, Punisher (more here)
Anti-Muslim 85 Act for America, Islamism, Anti-Muslim, No Sharia Law, Bikers Against Radical Islam, Anti-Muslim Refugees (more here)
Manosphere 82 Misogyny, pickup artists (PUA), men going their own way (MGTOW), anti-feminist, false rape society, anti-misandry, Roosh V (more about these groups)
Proud Boys/Alt-Knights 76 Proud Boys, Alt-Knights, FOAK, Gavin McInnes, Based Stickman (more)
Neo-Nazi** 40 Traditionalist Worker Party, National Socialist, NSM, atomwaffen, SS, The Creativity Movement, TCM (more)
Anti-Semitic 41 Goy/Goyim, ZOG, Holocaust Denial, echo (((parentheses))), the JQ, Christian Identity, dual seedline
Racist Skinhead 14 Oi, RAC, Hatecore, anti-sharp (more)
Anti-LGBT 4 NARTH, Family Research Council (more here)

UPDATE: After getting feedback about the way I had classified Christian Identity and The Creativity Movements, I decided to collapse the category, moving Christian Identity into Anti-Semitic as SPLC recommends, and likewise, The Creativity Movement is moved into the Neo-Nazi parent category. This makes a lot more sense. Thank you, readers. I guess I’m back to 11 categories again! Numbers have been updated in the table above.

Social Network Analysis

Below is a diagram (created in Gephi using Fruchterman-Reingold layout) showing co-membership between groups from five of the ideologies: Alt-Right, Neo Confederate, White Nationalist, Anti-Government, and Neo-Nazi. Lines (“edges”) between groups (“nodes”) indicate that the two groups share at least 10 members in common. No group is included if it does not share at least 10 members with another group. Larger nodes mean the group has more members in it.

FB group co-membership graph
click to expand

In the center of the diagram, in purple, is the Unite the Right (UtR) event. Below is a close-up view of the groups and events that had the highest co-membership with UtR. Here I have highlighted the UtR node, and its connected nodes show up with their color (nodes that are disconnected from UtR in this diagram are “greyed out”).

Unite the right group co-membership
click to expand

As the diagram shows, UtR not only had a very high number of nodes it shared members with, but the nodes it shared with were from a wide variety of groups from all the other ideologies: Neo-Confederate (red) groups, militias and Oath Keepers (blue), White Nationalist groups (green), Alt-Right groups (yellow), and even Neo-Nazi groups (black).

Which other groups are similarly well-connected? There are a few, but none cast as diverse a net as UtR. The figure below shows some of the largest nodes, all clustered in the busy center of the diagram. We seee a large neo-Confederate group, a very large militia group, a /pol/ (4chan) Alt-Right group, an “anti-SJW” (against “social justice warriors”) group, a “white culture” forum claiming to be the largest on the Internet, an Odinist/Folkish style group, and a forum for National Socialist ideas.

Closeup of Big Groups
click to expand
More about classifying groups by primary ideology

The problem of multiple ideologies. Many far-right extremist groups could easily be classified into more than one ideology. Most of these groups are anti-Muslim, misogynist, anti-Semitic, and so on. Therefore, to come up with a group’s primary ideology, I will typically rank the name and description as of higher importance than the cover photo when trying to make the call. Still, there are gray areas. I once saw a group that listed 5 different ethnicities it disliked, used a militia symbol on the cover photo, and had a generic, non-descriptive name. Classifying that group was a challenge.

To handle the multiple-ideology problem early on in this project, I originally developed a tagging system where I could tag groups with multiple keywords. In that system, a group could be classified as “militia / anti-Muslim / folkish” or “neo-Confederate / militia / anti-immigration”. This system quickly became untenable, however. It was just too difficult to generate meaningful graphs when every group could be in multiple categories at once. At this point, I think such a tagging system should be built on top of – or in addition to – a primary classification system.

The problem of changing ideologies. Each time a group changes its name, description, or cover photo, it could change the perception of what the group’s primary ideology is. I have run into a few groups that went from neo-Confederate to militias, from anti-Muslim to anti-Government, from anti-Semitic to Alt-Right, etc.

Combining ideologies.  Depending on the analysis type I want to do, I might sometimes combine some smaller groups into a larger group. For example, if I’m interested in studying “whiteness” groups, I might combine the large white nationalist category with the smaller Christian Identity and racist skinhead categories. However, if I’m specifically studying Christian Identity groups as a niche community, I can keep these ideologies separated.

Over-representation of certain ideologies. Since I live in the southern portion of the United States, I tend to find more Neo-Confederate groups than certain other types of groups that are more prevalent in other areas of the country.

In future blog posts, I’ll show some of my other data sources, as well as other ways to analyze the Facebook data.

Google Map of Campus Hate Fliers

Background

There have been numerous media stories recounting all the hate group fliers found on university campuses recently. I decided to record these incidents on a Google Map.

UPDATE 1: We are now up to 130 incidents. I continue to update this map, so if I’m missing incidents, tweet them to me @MeganSquire0 or email them to me.

UPDATE 2: There are now 185 campuses on the map, all cited and color-coded.

UPDATE 3: 220 campuses now and the story was amplified this week with the “It’s ok to be white campaign” (Newsweek coverage)

UPDATE 4: I created a separate map to track 2018 incidents

The Map

Data sources

Each map “pin” shows which group did the flyering, as well as the link for where I learned of it. These links are usually tweets from the groups themselves or tweets from students who found the flyers. Sometimes I also use news articles, for example from ViceInside Higher EdUSA TodayNPR, and I also have Google News alerts set up for the alt-right groups so when the flyering incidents are picked up in local media, I get those as well.

A Spotter’s Guide to the Alt-Right

Here is a presentation I gave to UNC students and community members last night about A Spotter’s Guide to Signs & Symbols of the Alt-Right, as it exists in 2017. The focus is on local events and those that I have personal familiarity with (e.g. Charlottesville).

A most heartfelt thanks to everyone who supplied photos for this presentation – I could not have made this without their diligence and beautiful camera work.

Learning to notice white supremacist symbolism

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has a comprehensive guide to symbols used by hate groups, including the KKK and white supremacist groups.

The first time I saw some of these symbols and logos around my own neighborhood, I was very surprised. But the more I looked around, the more I saw. I decided to begin documenting the evidence of far-right “signaling” that I see around my own neighborhood. White supremacy is not some abstract, far-away phenomenon, but is alive and happening right here, right now.

 

The 3rd National

Sometimes folks with unpopular beliefs want to fly just a little bit under the radar. The “3rd National”, aka the “Blood Stained Banner”, is a popular choice for the discerning neo-Confederate who is worried about what the neighbors will think if s/he flies the regular ol’ Confederate flag. Here is an example of the 3rd National flag, flying on a corner lot located about 3 blocks from my house:

3rd National Flag

Since the “3rd National” was the last official flag of the Confederacy, you might fly it if you believe that the South never should have surrendered. In fact, this is the flag that flew in front of the “last capital of the Confederacy” in Danville, VA until recently. Every Saturday, “flaggers” still show up in Danville to insist that this particular flag be returned to fly in front of the Capitol building.

Protesters asking that the 3rd national flag of the Confederacy fly in Danville once again

Patriots and Militias

On my run one day, I spotted this flag hanging from a window in some student housing one block from Elon’s campus. It has three capital letter I inside a Betsy-Ross style flag.

III%, 3%, Three Percent flag
3% flag

The “three-percenters” are a Patriot-style militia movement (wikipedia). The name refers to the group’s claim that only 3% of American colonists took up arms against the British in the American Revolution. Examples of militias include:

  • The Oath Keepers (nationwide),
  • The Alamance Rangers, and
  • The NC Tactical Response Force Militia, which has provided security for multiple alt-right/neo-Confederate events such as when ACTBAC protested the removal of the Confederate flag from schools in Orange County.

The ADL has some additional history about the ties between the Oath Keepers and the 3% movement, and the site explains that 3%-ers “also represent the three percent of the population of American gun owners ‘who will not disarm’.” The SPLC has more on the Oath Keepers, calling it “one of the largest radical antigovernment groups in the U.S. today.”

Speaking of militias, less than 1 mile from my house hangs this interesting flag with red and blue stripes and a white field with 8-pointed stars. (Yes, I spotted this one while running too – I guess runners see things we didn’t really want to see…)

guilford courthouse militia flag
Guilford Courthouse militia flag

This is the Guilford Courthouse flag, “a North Carolina militia banner” that was flown at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse during the Revolutionary War. How is that anything harmful? Well, sometimes its name is shortened to the “North Carolina Militia Flag”, as explained in this National Parks Service Word doc, and sometimes militia groups decide to fly this flag at their events.

For example, just last weekend (June 10, 2017), we spotted this distinctive flag in Raleigh at an anti-Islam rally hosted by the anti-Muslim group “Act for America”.

Guilford Courthouse Flag, aka NC Militia Flag, at the Act For America rally. Raleigh, NC June 10 2017

These anti-Muslim rallies were held in more than 20 cities nationwide, with Oath Keepers and militias providing “security” for the events.

The Guilford Courthouse flag is also used as the Facebook profile photo for the “Guilford News Network”, which is a Facebook-based right-wing news propagation network.

GNN has threatened to doxx and harass protestors following the May 20, 2017 Graham Confederate Memorial Day.

Guilford News Network threatens to doxx protestors after the May 20 Confederate Memorial Day event

GNN is also promoting the ‘Unite the Right’ free speech rally to be held on August 12 in Charlottesville. This rally has a speakers list full of notorious neo-Nazis, white supremacists, including Matthew Heimbach (Traditionalist Workers Party), Michael Hill (League of the South), and so on.

The contemporary use of this particular flag as a right-wing militia/hate symbol could be confusing to Greensboro-area history buffs who also fly it as a legitimate historical marker of a Revolutionary War event. The question we are struggling with is: Why was it also flown by militia members at the Anti-Muslim “Act for America” event and why is it flown by a group with ties to the TWP and League of the South? Perhaps, like so many other historical symbols (the swastika comes to mind here, also Pepe the frog), this one is in the early stages of being co-opted for a new purpose.

If history buffs don’t want to see this flag co-opted by right-wing militia groups, they need to be vocal about it, and call out its inappropriate use.

Identity Evropa

While we were protesting the Raleigh anti-Islam event, we noticed that a newer white supremacist group, Identity Evropa, had posted dozens of flyers around the city. They also took credit for posting these flyers on their Twitter feed.

About a month earlier, similar flyers were spotted on UNC-Chapel Hill Campus:

Identity Evropa flyer found at UNC Chapel Hill

If Chapel Hill and Raleigh seem too far away to bother you, consider that on May 20, 2017, at a Confederate Flag Rally in Graham (right here in Alamance County!) two US Marines acting on behalf of Identity Evropa were arrested after trespassing on a building to drop a banner with a quote from George Orwell and the abbreviation “YWNRU” (“You Will Not Replace Us”), the slogan of Identity Evropa.

Identity Evropa banner dropped in Graham, NC

The YWNRU slogan was used on banners and in chants at the Charlottesville, VA torch lighting last month. Extra credit if you can spot the “3rd National” in the photo below.

Identity Evropa with their “You will not replace us” banner in Charlottesville, VA

The KKK

Maybe these newfangled groups like Identity Evropa are too artsy for some folks. For those who want to keep their hatred old-school, the KKK has a long history in Alamance County. Just today I was reading Elaine Frantz Parsons’ book Ku-Klux: The Birth of the Klan during Reconstruction and didn’t even make it past the first paragraph of the “here’s how the KKK got started” section before Alamance County was mentioned (and not in a good way):

Alamance County mentioned almost immediately in Parsons’ book

Surely the KKK can’t still be relevant in this day and age? In Alamance County? Well, at the same Graham, NC rally – the Alamance County seat, about 10 miles from my house – in the same spot where the Identity Evropa banner was unfurled, and on the same day, we spotted these lovely homemade t-shirts sporting the KKK triangle logo:

Woman wearing homemade t-shirt with KKK triangles logo
Man wearing homemade KKK shirt with triangle logo

The signs and symbols are everywhere if you know what you’re looking for.

Why we shouldn’t know our own passwords

Here’s a little article I wrote for The Conversation about why current border security policies make it important that we develop technology so that we cannot reveal our own passwords. This is an online publication where the articles are written by academics, then released under a Creative Commons license so they can be re-published elsewhere. So far the most views have come from Time and Alternet. Pretty interesting.

Update: The local Greensboro paper ran the article too, and on April 5, I’m going to be on a radio show talking about this stuff. It’s so weird that one little cybersecurity article can be this interesting to people, meanwhile I’ve toiled away on free software for years and no one cares 🙂 — I seriously need to change fields.

Greensboro News&Record

Found and liberated 2,151 missing DHS files

On January 18, 2017 the US Department of Homeland Security discontinued its Daily Open Source Infrastructure Report service which it had run since October 2006. To enable researchers to study the content of these reports, I collected as many as I could find (2,151 PDF files) and released them to the Internet Archive. You can find them here: DHS Daily Open Source Infrastructure Reports 2006-2017

The PDF files came from the following URLs:

  • https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/
  • https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/nppd/ip/daily-report/
  • https://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/

And when these yielded 404 errors (which they did for most pre-2013 files) I used the Internet Archive itself, with the following URL base:

http://web.archive.org/web/20061101153326/https://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/[filename]

Files are named as they were upon download, in one of the following patterns:

  • DHS_Daily_Report_2006-10-11.pdf (most 2006-2012 files have this format)
  • DHS-Daily-Report-2012-12-06.pdf (a single December 2012 file has this format)
  • dhs-daily-report-2013-01-09 (most 2013-2017 files have this format)

If you are interested in missing dates (for example Archive.org was missing some dates and a few files were corrupted), this blog might be able to help fill in the gaps.

 

Changes to Professor Watchlist – who was removed?

Nearly 12,000 professors have used the AAUP’s “Add My Name” feature in order to be added to Turning Point USA’s Professor Watchlist, and large groups of faculty from Trinity University and University of Notre Dame, among others, have also requested to join. The Professor Watchlist was created in order to expose professors who “advance a radical agenda in lecture halls” and inclusion on the list is supposed to be based on “incidents that have already been reported by a credible source.”

How has the list changed?

The Professor Watchlist debuted in November with 146 names, and has grown to 166 names as of January 3, 2016. I was curious who has been added (obviously not all 12,000 who requested to be added!), and even more curious about who has been taken off the list.

So I created a Google Spreadsheet showing the names in November and the names as they show up in January. I got the November list from archive.org’s Wayback Machine, and the current list from the Professor Watchlist website.

Google Spreadsheet showing additions & removals

Data cleaning steps

  • I re-alphabetized 4 names that were out of order on the November list
  • I lined up the names so we could more easily see who was added/removed
  • I colorized each name with red if it was removed since November, and green if it was added since November.

Findings

Unfortunately, the Wayback Machine does not have the original PW pages indexed for each individual professor, so I can’t go back and see what they wrote for each, but based on what I was able to find online, the rationales for these seven seem very flimsy.

Anyway, at a rate of only 35 changes in a month, Turning Point is going to hire some more interns to enter all these 12,000 names! Good luck with that.