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Anti-defamation league: extremist content remains “easily accessible” on Instagram

Instagram is a hotbed for white supremacist messaging, extremism, and hateful content, according to new research of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

Researchers at the ADL’s Center for Extremism have found hundreds of accounts sharing content on white supremacy and neo-Nazi, including posts from members of the Atomwaffen Division, a neo-Nazi group pushing for a race war in order to prevent what they see as cultural displacement. of the white race.

Joanna Mendelson, associate director of the Center for Extremism, told The Hill that she has “observed an increase in the number of extremists returning to some of these traditional spaces from which they have historically been removed.”

This leads to a “social impact which can be devastating on our society,” Mendelson said. “The ease with which they can access, recruit and radicalize is so much easier when you’re on mainstream platforms. “

Mendelson said that within days, researchers at the Center for Extremism found around 500 accounts linked to white supremacists and extremists. Five of the main accounts associated with Atomwaffen have been flagged to Instagram, four of which have been deleted, she said.

The accounts share Nazi images such as swastikas, hate messages showing people burning the LGBT pride flag and propaganda promoting a war, the study found.

Public accounts can have up to 10,000 subscribers, and many of them appear to be connected, ADL said.

“When you examine the publicly accessible network of these accounts, it becomes clear that these are not random spots of extremist content, but that they are part of a cohesive community,” one reads in the study. “Many of these pages are connected to each other, follow each other and follow each other.”

Hateful, violent and racist content has long proliferated on social networks.

Instagram, which is most popular among young adults and teens, has particularly struggled to contain hate speech with its owner, Facebook, despite speech ban that encourages violence or targets groups on the basis of their race, gender, gender or other unique characteristics.

In renewed efforts announced this year, Instagram announced that it will roll out features to filter offensive messages and also announced its “Hidden Words” feature, which allows people to filter out “abusive” direct mail requests.

But the ADL study released Friday shows that many hate and extreme accounts are still active on the platform.

Mendelson explained that she found white supremacists linked to several extremist groups in addition to Atomwaffen, including the Rise Above movement.

“You can research a whole range of key terms endemic to the white supremacist subculture and find them on Instagram,” she said.

In a February blog post, Instagram argued that it was doing everything possible to stop the spread of hate speech.

“We are committed to doing all we can to fight hate and racism on our platform, but we also know that these issues are bigger than us,” the post read.

The Hill reached out to Instagram for comment.

Update at 3:40 p.m.