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DHS Finally Gets Real: Online Hate Drives Domestic Terror

Chip Somodevilla

The Department of Homeland Security on Friday called violent white supremacism “one of the most potent forces” driving a surge in mass shootings in the US, and acknowledged the role of online conspiracy theories, social media and extremist websites in fomenting domestic terror.

“Similar to how ISIS inspired and connected with potential radical Islamist terrorists, white supremacist violent extremists connect with like-minded individuals online,” reads part of DHS’s 37-page counter-terrorism strategy released Friday. “In addition to mainstream social media platforms, white supremacist violent extremists use lesser-known sites like Gab, 8chan, and EndChan, as well as encrypted channels. Celebration of violence and conspiracy theories about the ‘ethnic replacement’ of whites… are prominent in their online circles.”

Acting Homeland Security Director Kevin McAleenan released the new strategy document in an address at the Brookings Institute. He acknowledged that the First Amendment limits the government’s ability to counter online communities like 8chan that “provide individuals who might be disaffected or angry with validation,” and called for the private sector to refuse service to such sites.

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