When Radical Online Political Speech Transitions to Physical Violence

The Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

More and more, the so-called “alt-right” and the far-left leverage each other for the longevity of their respective causes. Nowhere is this clearer than online. On the Internet, the two movements continue to thrive despite recent censorship efforts by some social media platforms to ban the alt-right. More specifically, the volume of antifa and anarchist chatter spiked before the recent neo-Nazi rallies, and the alt-right, though in ways more muted, seems to be retooling its digital tactics.

For anyone even broadly interested in keeping the two movements non-violent, while also respecting freedom of expression and assembly, it’s important to investigate the changes in online behavior on each side. Indeed, both have plotted on the Web, sometimes with violent consequences, and both use the Internet to recruit and circulate propaganda. As organizations, they’re nascent, decentralized, and highly vulnerable to trolling and hacking attempts by the opposition, which in turn only increases the possibility of violence in the blink of an eye.

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