Gray networks are semi-clandestine and have an organizational structure that is only partially known. They may have some secrecy to their membership, use aliases, have initiation rituals, engage in illicit behavior, and so on, but they aren’t classified as strictly a criminal enterprise like a traditional “dark” network.
Gray networks are somewhat understudied in the social networks and dark networks literature.
In this paper, I use publicly available social media trace data from Venmo and Facebook to explore the structure of the Proud Boys as a “gray network”.
My main research questions were around whether we can predict the leadership of the group solely from the features of the network, and what can we learn about the way the real world group is organized by looking at the online social network and comparing that to the actual leaders of the group, for example as revealed by their un-redacted Bylaws document.
Findings of this paper include:
Proud Boys social network data confirms their geographically-oriented structure. In addition, the network predicts that 8 leaders (“Elders”) were probably chosen to represent 8 main geographical areas.
Social media trace data reveals that real-world events (e.g. TexFest, WestFest, various rallies) are a main driver of membership, payments, and leadership.
Proud Boys social network data reveals both bridges and hubs in the structure, as well as small world features. The presence of these different structures can indicate their preferences for how Proud Boys chose to address the communication-versus-security tradeoff characteristic of clandestine networks.
Two of the cells appear to operate largely independently of the larger nationwide structure.
Although only 5 of 8 Elders appeared in the financial network, 4 of these 5 were predictable as leaders based on network metrics alone.
1 of the 5 Venmo Elders was not able to be predicted from the social media trace data.
4 additional “leader” nodes (2 hubs, 2 bridges) occupy influential positions even though they are not known to be Elders.
I wrote this little paper after being frustrated at the lack of data about precisely how many women were in far-right groups these days, especially online. I was hearing estimates ranging between 7% and 56%, and some of these didn’t take social media into account at all, but were just back-of-the-envelope guesstimates based on event attendance or interviews with group members.
In this work, I use a very large collection of data I collected about far-right extremist group members from Facebook’s API during the period June 20, 2017 – March 31, 2018. I then used two “genderizer” software packages to infer the gender of these 700,000 extremist group members. I then divide those into ten different ideologies and look for evidence of women’s auxiliaries, sometimes mockingly called “wheat fields”.
I find that wheat fields DO exist in five of the ten ideologies. The tall spikes at the left side of each graph below represent groups with a super-majority of women, and which are designed to be women-oriented groups.
I find that women’s leadership rates in the Facebook groups differ between ideologies. One smaller ideology, Neo-Nazi, tends to use women in leadership roles at a higher-than-expected rate. White nationalist and Proud Boys, both ideologies with wheat fields for women (a.k.a. women’s auxiliaries) don’t tend to have women in leadership roles in groups as a whole.
Finally, just like in the 1920s with the WKKK (Women’s KKK) and the Ladies’ Memorial Associations (LMAs) and United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) I find a systematic marginalization and oppression of women on the one hand comes into conflict with a practical need to leverage women’s networks and organizational abilities on the other hand.
Below is a network diagram showing some of the extremist groups and ideologies in my data set, and how they overlap in membership.
Two of the key anti-Muslim groups in this network – each scoring very high on betweenness centrality measures – are Infidel Brotherhood International and Stop the Islamization of America. Each of their ego graphs are shown below:
Anti-Muslim groups attract the same audiences as other extremist ideologies, including secessionist neo-Confederates, militant anti-government conspiracy theorists, and racist white nationalists. In addition, groups like IBI and SOIA can serve as a convenient lingua franca: their brand of hate is a common denominator that ties extremists of disparate ideologies together.
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.
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 Vice, Inside Higher Ed, USA Today, NPR, 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.
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
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.
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.