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UNC professor studies online extremism as hate groups on the rise in NC

Posted August 5, 2019 7:47 p.m. EDT

— A professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill said that, while the internet and social media make it easier for those with extreme views to connect with one another, there is a bigger problem.

Alice Marwick said online extremism has become a lot more visible. That visibility, she said, gives more radicalized people more online access to white nationalists views, opinions and hate speech.

"Starting with the 2016 elections, I think we've seen these issues of misinformation, disinformation and fake news really go from the margins to the center," she said.

Based on her research, Marwick said shutting down extremist websites like 8-Chan, which has been linked to the El Paso, Texas, shooting and other shootings, is far from a permanent solution. These types of sites aren't regulated like Twitter or Facebook.

"They don't have advertising. They're not accountable to shareholders. They don't have the pressures to cut down on extremist content," Marwick said.

Marwick said it could be time to start de-radicalization programs, similar to the ones that target extremist Islamic and Muslim groups.

"How can we provide young people with positive opportunities, with other forms of rhetoric that allow them to feel prideful in themselves, other than white supremacy?" she said.

Hate groups on the rise in North Carolina

Hate groups are growing across the country, and North Carolina is no exception.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has tracked hate groups since 1990, and the latest numbers have reached an all-time high.

The center reported 1,020 hate groups nationally in 2018 - a 7 percent increase from the year before. White nationalist groups jumped by 50 percent.

In North Carolina, there are 40 reported hate groups - up 25 percent from the year before. Across the state, the center identified the Ku Klux Klan, various anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant groups, neo-Nazis and black nationalist organizations. But the formation of black nationalist groups accounted for the biggest increase.