White nationalists have become a dominant force on Twitter in the past two years, according to a new study published Thursday by George Washington University.
White nationalist movements have grown their Twitter adherents by around 600 percent since 2012 and about 300 percent since 2014, swelling in size from 6,567 white nationalists in 2014 to 25,406 white nationalists as of the study’s publication.
White nationalism — often referred to under the umbrella of the alt-right movement — has become a dominant force in mainstream United States politics during the 2016 presidential election. The alt-right movement is a loosely-defined collection of white nationalists and neo-Nazi groups whose popularity has grown in regions of the Internet such as racist websites and 8Chan, but also on more general platforms such as Twitter.
Many within the movement have become huge supporters of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, even though they don’t consider Trump a white nationalist.
Trump’s anti-immigration platform, on full display during a Wednesday night speech in which he declared there would be no path to legalization for undocumented immigrants, was something out of an alt-right fairytale.
White nationalists have tweeted Trump-related hashtags more than any other hashtag aside from #whitegenocide — the fictional idea that white people are being eradicated by diversity and crimes committed by people of color — according to the study.
In January, Trump merged the two trends when he retweeted @WhiteGenocideTM.
The largest number of white nationalists on Twitter had neo-Nazi leanings, and “pro-Nazi propaganda was tweeted more often than any other content,” the study says.
J.M. Berger, the author of the study who is an expert on how Islamic State members and sympathizers use Twitter and other social media, says in the study that white nationalists are much more prominent on Twitter than ISIS. White nationalists often have many more followers and tweet more often, due at least in part to Twitter’s campaign to shut down ISIS-related accounts.
“In contrast, white nationalists and Nazis operate with relative impunity,” the study says.
ISIS has been more organized in its online recruiting, whereas white nationalists are often able to recruit by spreading their messages to a general audience and letting ideas percolate in the minds of followers and others on Twitter.
The more organized recruitment was often done by Twitter users with Nazi leanings.