“Since the Jan. 6 siege of the Capitol in Washington, right-wing extremists on social media continue to glorify violence, draw new adherents and forge fresh plans for mayhem. This ominous activity presents an urgent threat to the security and social cohesion of the United States.
But there is another, less obvious takeaway: Experts know — or can know — an enormous amount about the nature and evolution of the threat.
Data sleuths have combed through a 70 terabyte cache of data from Parler, the now-defunct social media platform popular among the far right. Researchers have archived and mapped millions of these ethically hacked posts, wrangled by an anonymous, purportedly Austria-based hacker. The haul — potentially bigger than the WikiLeaks data dump of the Afghan War logs and the Democratic National Committee leak, combined — includes valuable evidence and planning of further attacks, mixed in with the private data of individuals who committed no crimes (along with quite a bit of pornography). The early takeaways are terrifying: According to at least one preliminary analysis, the frequency of hashtags on Parler referencing hanging or killing duly elected members of Congress more than doubled after the November elections.
Until the nation reckons with the self-inflicted wounds stemming from an under-regulated, unreformed social media information architecture, President Biden’s calls for healing and national unity won’t produce substantial, lasting results. The new administration needs a long-term plan to confront the escalating threat, as far-right insurgents migrate from one platform to the next.”