White nationalists protest at the Charlottesville, Va., Unite the Right Rally on Aug. 12, 2017. (Rodney Dunning/Creative Commons https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/legalcode)

Moonshot & ADL Project Finds Anti-Black, Antisemitic, White Supremacist Internet Searches Peaked in Conjunction with Major Offline Events

Anti-Black, antisemitic and white supremacist searches spiked online as major offline events such as Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests and the 2020 presidential election unfolded, according to a Moonshot and ADL joint report released today as part of an effort to understand how Americans search for white supremacist narratives and content.

Overall, 511,759 total searches related to white supremacy were observed during the study period from July 2020 to March 2021. Moonshot and ADL launched this project in response to white supremacist activity surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, widespread BLM protests and counter-protests, and the U.S. presidential election. These events coalesced to create fertile ground for white supremacists and other violent extremist movements to mobilize and recruit.

The resulting report, “White Supremacy Search Trends in the United States,” details what this joint venture uncovered about how Americans search for violent extremist narratives and content during moments of political crisis.

The report’s key findings include:

  • Anti-Black search traffic peaked during the summer of 2020, when systemic racial inequality took center stage in the U.S. during nationwide protests. Violent anti-Black keywords, such as “how to kill black people,” sustained high search volumes in July and August of 2020.
  • Offline events appeared to catalyze search traffic for extremist content online. Moonshot observed elevated search traffic for anti-Black, antisemitic, and neo-Nazi/white supremacy themes around three major offline events: the nationwide protests against racial injustice throughout the summer of 2020, the presidential election period from 4 September to 6 November 2020, and the period of post-election uncertainty that led to the storming of the Capitol by domestic extremists on 6 January 2021.
  • There was sustained interest in antisemitic websites, white supremacist merchandise and literature, and the Ku Klux Klan, all of which serve as easily identifiable online access points for white supremacist content and group membership.

Moonshot and ADL monitored Google searches for 17,279 keywords related to the following search categories: anti-Black; anti-Muslim; antisemitic; the Ku Klux Klan; neo-Nazi / white supremacy; and white supremacist conspiracy theories. The teams conducted ongoing monitoring of extremist media, websites, and influencer accounts to identify and monitor interest in new narratives, slang, memes, events, platforms, and merchandise.

The full report can be found here.

According to Vidhya Ramalingam, Founder of Moonshot, “The sustained interest we’ve seen in white supremacist content across America is cause for concern.  Though it appears to peak surrounding offline events like elections and protests, this research signals an enduring uptake in antisemitic and anti-Black views and conspiracy theories. Our efforts will not end with this report. We will continue to monitor and combat white supremacy and other dangerous beliefs that we’ve seen materialize in the form of real-world violence.”

“Today’s hateful Google search might become tomorrow’s hate crime,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of ADL. “Hate based on race, religion, and ethnicity is at an all-time high and growing rapidly due to dangerous content found online. As more Americans are searching for hate, we must continue to stand together to protect all communities from the hateful rhetoric we are seeing right now. We appreciate our partnership with Moonshot for this important effort to mitigate threats to Jews, black and brown communities, and other potential victims of white supremacists.”

Read more at ADL

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