Neo-Nazi groups are using Instagram to recruit young teenagers, experts warn. Memes are being used to entice them.

instagram memes far right extremism
Memes are being used to draw in teenagers to neo-Nazi groups, experts told Insider.

  • Instagram is a fertile ground for extremist propaganda, experts told Insider.
  • Neo-Nazi groups are using the social media platform to recruit teenagers, the experts said.
  • Parents are now being advised to spot far-right messaging to protect their kids.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

“My kids have had a pretty progressive upbringing,” Joanna Schroeder told Insider. “So it was pretty shocking to me when I started looking over their shoulders to see that there was some really disturbing content showing up on their Instagram feeds.”

Schroeder, a parenting writer from Los Angeles, was troubled by the photos and videos being recommended to her two teenage sons on Instagram. “There was alt-right and borderline Holocaust-denial stuff, memes, showing up on there,” Schroeder said.

While Schroeder was shocked and appalled, the abundance of far-right content on the photo and video sharing platform is well-known to researchers.

Instagram has allowed itself to emerge as a fertile ground for extremist propaganda, experts on extremism told Insider.

Read more: Facebook says it removed more than 1.3 billion fake accounts in the months surrounding the 2020 election

“Instagram is actively pulling its predominantly young users down an extremist rabbit hole,’ Imrah Ahmed, CEO of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, wrote in an email.

The rabbit hole, in some cases, leads to kids being introduced into neo-Nazi groups. So much so, in fact, that Instagram has become the primary platform for far-right groups to recruit vulnerable teenagers in recent years, several experts said.

‘A premium on recruiting youth is really standard’

Instagram has become the “platform of choice for young Nazis to radicalize teenagers,” according to the UK anti-racism charity Hope Not Hate’s annual report. Neo-Nazi groups are using it to prey on vulnerable young people and sign them up to their extremist causes, the report said.

In the past year alone, Hope Not Hate found that two violent far-right groups have used Instagram as their primary mode of recruitment. The British Hand and the National Partisan Movement – two UK-based extremist groups – actively recruited teenagers on the app, the study found.

Three teenage boys, all alleged to be members of The British Hand, are now facing trial on terrorism charges.

Similarly, in the US, a neo-Nazi group’s presence on Instagram led to two young men’s arrest. Both were involved in the hardcore, white supremacist Iron Youth group, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

iron youth logo
Iron Youth is a neo-Nazi organization active in Texas and California. A young man, alleged to have been a vocal supporter of the group on Instagram, has been arrested.

One of the young men had shared Instagram posts urging fellow group members to kill Jewish and Black people, according to a court document.

“The idea that white supremacists and other far-right extremists would put a premium on recruiting youth is really standard,” the Anti-Defamation League Center on Extremism’s vice president, Oren Segal, told Insider. What is novel, he said, is how neo-Nazi groups are skillfully utilizing Instagram’s functions.

“Extremists never miss an opportunity to leverage their hateful ideas through the lens of the latest technology,” Segal explained.

Memes are an effective way to cloak more sinister views

The focus on visual media and the abundance of young users makes it “a great platform to push far-right propaganda which is stylized and punchy,” said Hope Not Hate researcher Patrik Hermansson.

The punchiest way to garner attention from young people is through memes, Hermansson said. “Memes are easily consumable and they are funny and they’re easy to share,” he added. “They spread quickly and it exposes a lot of people to them.”

Memes are also an effective way to cloak more sinister views under a layer of humor or irony, Hermansson said. “The humor makes them easier to swallow,” he added.

Some of the more inoffensive memes use characters popular with the alt-right – Doge, Pepe the Frog, Cheems – to articulate controversial sentiments.

screenshot doge extremists meme
A screenshot of a meme, including ‘Swole Doge’ and ‘baby Cheems,’ that was used to target Instagram’s younger audience.

“What many extremists have learned is that explicit expressions of hatred may not attract as many people as more subtle references,” the ADL’s extremism expert said.

“It’s a tried and true technique of how to win hearts and minds,” Segal added. “You don’t hit them over the heads with the hatred. You sort of slow roll that process.”

‘Instagram’s algorithm leads users down rabbit-holes’

The “slow roll” process, which gradually introduces youngsters to more troubling material, is enabled by Instagram’s algorithm, say experts. Liking a seemingly innocuous meme can, in turn, present the teenager with more radical content.

Schroeder saw this process unfold when she began to monitor her teenage sons’ Instagram use.

“A kid might like something edgy, Pepe the Frog or something, and that triggers the algorithm,” she said. ‘That then sends them tumbling down into anti-feminist, racist, Holocaust denial, neo-Nazi type of content.”

pepe the frog
Pepe the Frog, pictured, is an internet meme that is popular with the alt-right.

While the Instagram algorithm is relatively opaque and constantly evolving, it is known that the Explore page is a curated page of recommended content. The content is chosen “based on an individual’s historical interactions,” according to social media marketing company Later.

A March study by the Center for Countering Digital Hate found that users are directed to far-right content on the Explore page.

Liking content relating to any form of misinformation – election, vaccination, or race-based – leads to anti-Semitic and extremist content being promoted to the user, it found. “Instagram’s algorithm leads users down rabbit-holes to a warren of extremist content,” the study said.

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An example of anti-Semitic content appearing on a user’s Explore page.

“Instagram’s algorithm actively seeks out individuals who have not yet engaged with the extreme or radical accounts, but who have characteristics that the algorithm determines may find it appealing and then serves it to them,” Angelo Carusone, president of the right-wing watchdog Media Matters, told Insider.

He believes that directing younger users to problematic users makes Instagram a recruiting sergeant for extremists.

“Instagram isn’t merely hosting the content; it is actively building extremist movements by recruiting new adherents into the fold and connecting them with like-minded extremists,” Carusone said.

Direct messaging can lead to ‘grooming’

The DM feature allows users to send a message to any other use of the app and facilitates sending messages en masse aiding the indoctrination process, said Hope Not Hate’s Hermansson.

“They [extremists] can directly get in touch with people and say, “why don’t you join my group?'”

This can lead to “grooming,” according to far-right researcher Miro Dittrich. “You see 30-somethings talking to 14-year-olds and kind of grooming them for the far-right ideology.”

It’s particularly hard for social media platforms to police private messages unless a user reports them, Dittrich noted.

While it is hard to moderate direct messaging, experts believe that moderation generally is insufficient on the apps.

“There’s the question of how long viral content can stay up on the platform and, therefore, be exposed to a lot of people,” Hermansson said. “On Instagram, it appears that it’s too long. We see recruitment accounts for fascist groups that stay online for two months.”

Instagram faces an even bigger challenge in spotting and removing harmful content published on Instagram Stories. The feature allows users to host videos for 24 hours before they disappear from a user’s profile.

“I think they definitely have a problem with Instagram Stories,” Dittrich said. “A lot more of the content that violates the terms of service is shared via Stories. I think that’s a really hard space to moderate.”

When accounts are locked, the content reaches fewer people but has less chance of being reported. “Accounts among the neo-Nazi radical front usually have a locked account, so it’s not easy for people to flag stuff. Only the inner circle is allowed in these spaces,” Dittrich added.

Parents have to warn their kids

Every expert Insider spoke to agreed that Instagram needs to speed up the moderation process and removing the odd post isn’t enough.

“You can’t just take down one player or delete one picture someone posted,” Dittrich said. “You have to analyze and see that this is a network that all post content that leads to offline violence and do a systematic takedown.”

Insider asked Instagram about its policy on extremist content but it did not respond to the request for comment.

The responsibility isn’t entirely on Instagram, Dittrich told Insider. It also falls upon parents to be aware of the sort of content that their kids are consuming.

Hermansson agrees. “I think the solution to these issues comes down to the parents and schools because they are the closest to the kids,” he said. “The more you know about the terminology and language of the far-right today, the easier it is to see the signs.”

Schroeder, who has taken it upon herself to learn how to protect her kids, said: “It’s like teaching your kids to swim or teaching them to dial 911. They have to learn critical media skills, and they have to learn how to sniff out propaganda.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

Instagram’s most popular financial meme account is run by an anonymous Wall Street banker who says these 3 stocks could be the next GameStop

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  • Instagram’s most popular financial meme page is run by a New-York based investment banker in his late 20s.
  • After the Reddit-fueled buying frenzy, he published a newsletter to help people make sense of what was going on. 
  • The founder of “Litquidity” told Insider that DraftKings, Virgin Galactic, and Penn have meme potential.
  • Sign up here for our daily newsletter, 10 Things Before the Opening Bell

Litquidity has a following of about half a million people on Instagram, and it’s the most popular financial meme account on the site.

Run by an anonymous Wall Street banker in his late 20s, the account was launched in 2017 when he found some free time between switching jobs. His circle of friends was made up of people working in investment banks, hedge funds, private equity, and venture capital. So he created the account to share funny instances that they could all relate to. 

“It’s a way we could all share the common stuff we were going through – working very late, going through the same struggles of dealing with tough managing directors who were very demanding, stress of the job, enjoying things like going out in New York City to the bars, and the way we think about things,” Litquidity told Insider in an interview.

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The Litquidity account rapidly gathered an audience among the financial fraternity for its unveiling of the lifestyle of someone working on Wall Street. Some of Litquidity’s own colleagues often unwittingly send him his own memes.

“One or two coworkers maybe know, but it’s more of a suspicion,” he said. “It’s basically just my friends and family that know that I run it, but I try my best to maintain anonymity.” 

He found there’s an appetite for market knowledge and information, since events in the financial world transpire very quickly and are easy to miss. And so, around the time that the Reddit-fueled day-trading craze pushed GameStop’s shares higher last month, Litquidity launched a newsletter called the Exec Sum to help readers decipher the goings-on in the market.

The brand describes itself as “the littest daily newsletter covering all things Wall Street & Silicon Valley with a dose of memes.” Having already lined up sponsors, the newsletter is meant to serve as a stream of revenue that adds to Litquidity’s merchandise and advertising business.

Aside from GameStop, the anonymous banker said these three stocks have “meme potential”:

DraftKings. “I think it’s very tied to the same personality that is active on Wall Street Bets. The same way that there’s degenerate stock traders who make the most outrageous investments, sports betters also have similarities with betting on football games, soccer, basketball – you name it. It’s the same type of person throwing money, and they can hit big or lose big.”

Virgin Galactic. Because the “going to the moon” association for the spaceflight company is a “natural fit.” 

Penn National Gaming. “They are the majority owners of Barstool Sports now. Dave Portnoy being such an electric personality, he’s a meme in itself. It could be treated as a meme through sports-betting.”

Litquidity said his brand is still in the early stages and he wants to continue to make good content, entertain people, and eventually focus on educating so more can understand the financial world.

Read the original article on Business Insider

GameStop extends 2-day surge to 278% as Reddit meme stocks find renewed life

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GameStop surged as much as 85% on Thursday after the stock more than doubled the previous day. The two-day move of 278% has been part of a broader surge for so-called meme stocks popular on Reddit.

The stock rose to an intraday high of $170 per share at of 9:35 a.m. ET after closing 104% higher at $91.71 on Wednesday. Among other Reddit stocks, AMC Entertainment rose 21%, Express Inc climbed 22%, and Koss gained 90% at intraday highs.

GameStop’s spike was spurred by a spike in final hour of regular market hours on Wednesday, after a session that saw trading in the stock halt multiple times due to volatility. The video-game retailer came back into focus after it announced the resignation of its chief financial officer, Jim Bell.

Sources told Insider Bell didn’t actually resign voluntarily, but was forced out by the board as part of a push by activist investor Ryan Cohen. The board aims to make way for an executive that is more in line with Cohen’s strategic vision.

Cohen’s addition to the board in early January, along with his boosted investment stake in the company, fueled the first flurry of moves in GameStop.

After GameStop’s stock doubled, Reddit’s website suffered an hour-long outage in after hours-trading. It is unclear whether the two instances were related, but the Wall Street Bets subreddit page is known to be a popular forum for day traders that recently triggered a rally in multiple shorted stocks.

The clearinghouse that forced Robinhood to restrict trading in volatile stocks because of higher margin requirements published a whitepaper on Wednesday that laid grounds for accelerating the stock-settlement process.  The Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation proposed shortening the settlement cycle for US equities to one day from two, prompting some renewed interest from the retail crowd on Reddit.

Read more: GOLDMAN SACHS: These 40 heavily shorted stocks could be the next GameStop if retail traders target them – and the group has already nearly doubled over the past 3 months

Read the original article on Business Insider

GameStop surges another 85% alongside other popular Reddit meme stocks like AMC and Koss

GettyImages 1230960416

GameStop surged another 85% in early trading on Thursday after the stock more than doubled the previous day. The move was part of a broader surge for so-called meme stocks popular on Reddit.

The stock rose to an intraday high of $170 per share as of 9:35 a.m. ET, after closing 104% higher at $91.71 on Wednesday. Among other Reddit stocks, AMC Entertainment rose 18%, Express Inc climbed 21%, and Koss gained 78%.

GameStop’s spike was spurred by a spike in final hour of regular market hours on Wednesday, after a session that saw trading in the stock halt multiple times due to volatility. The video-game retailer came back into focus after it announced the resignation of its chief financial officer, Jim Bell.

Sources told Insider Bell didn’t actually resign voluntarily, but was forced out by the board as part of a push by activist investor Ryan Cohen. The board aims to make way for an executive that is more in line with Cohen’s strategic vision.

Cohen’s addition to the board in early January, along with his boosted investment stake in the company, fueled the first flurry of moves in GameStop.

After GameStop’s stock doubled, Reddit’s website suffered an hour-long outage in after hours-trading. It is unclear whether the two instances were related, but the Wall Street Bets subreddit page is known to be a popular forum for day traders that recently triggered a rally in multiple shorted stocks.

The clearinghouse that forced Robinhood to restrict trading in volatile stocks because of higher margin requirements published a whitepaper on Wednesday that laid grounds for accelerating the stock-settlement process.  The Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation proposed shortening the settlement cycle for US equities to one day from two, prompting some renewed interest from the retail crowd on Reddit.

Read more: GOLDMAN SACHS: These 40 heavily shorted stocks could be the next GameStop if retail traders target them – and the group has already nearly doubled over the past 3 months

Read the original article on Business Insider

Tesla shares are being driven more by Reddit posts rather than the automaker’s fundamentals or valuation, Barclays study finds

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Tesla CEO, Elon Musk.

  • Tesla’s stock performance is positively correlated to the number of Reddit posts citing TSLA, Barclays found.
  • The automaker has seen outsized attention from retail investors with active discussions on social media. 
  • “We have painfully learned that social media memes can matter more for TSLA share performance.”
  • Sign up here for our daily newsletter, 10 Things Before the Opening Bell

Tesla’s stock performance might just be linked to online chatter over the automaker on social media forums like Reddit, according to a Barclays study released on Tuesday.

“On the autos team, we have painfully learned that social media memes can matter more for TSLA share performance than actual financial metrics, fundamentals or (dare we say) valuation,” strategists Ryan Preclaw and Brian Johnson wrote.

Barclays examined data on the Wall Street Bets subreddit to find big upticks in posts about Tesla have been predictive of stock returns a few days later. “In the model we think is most appropriate, a swing up of 7 or more submissions today over yesterday has been predictive of outsized returns in TSLA stock tomorrow,” the investment bank said.

The strategists laid out a scatter plot that suggests there is at least some relationship between attention on Wall Street Bets and Tesla returns. In conducting the analysis, Barclays focused on posts that reference either $TSLA or TSLA (in all caps), and no other identifiable ticker. 

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The strategists said there are statistically significant relationships between the number of returns and the absolute number of posts one and two days earlier, and between changes in post counts and following days’ returns.

“However, all of this analysis is ‘in sample.’ The situation has been so dynamic that there are simply too few examples to be confident of a stable process between WSB posts and TSLA returns,” Barclays said. “Even more than usual, past results might not predict future performance.”

Screenshot 2021 02 25 at 09.32.36

Tesla tumbled as much as 20% this week, making CEO Elon Musk relinquish his title as the world’s richest person. Shares in the EV-maker sank after the company halted new orders for its cheaper version of the Model Y crossover. The drop was also partly driven by Musk tweeting that the prices of bitcoin and Ethereum “do seem high” after their recent rallies. Tesla was trading 1.6% lower, at $730 per share, in pre-market trading on Thursday.

“With only 2-3 total submissions on each of the past several days, we remain below the trend in attention that has come along with big returns jumps in the past,” Barclays said. “It remains to be seen if WSB posters bring their attention back to TSLA anytime soon.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

GameStop surges another 58% along with top Reddit meme-stocks including AMC and Koss

GettyImages 1230960416
  • GameStop shares extended their rally early on Thursday, along with other Reddit favorites AMC and Koss.
  • Renewed activity in GameStop led to an hour-long outage for Reddit – the hub of last month’s frenzy. 
  • The company is back in focus after it announced the resignation of its CFO, Jim Bell.
  • Sign up here for our daily newsletter, 10 Things Before the Opening Bell.

GameStop surged another 58% in early trading on Thursday, after the stock more than doubled the previous day, in a move that sent shares in other Reddit-favorites soaring.  

The stock rose to $144.08 per share as of 05:50 a.m. ET, after closing 103% higher at $91.71 on Wednesday. Among other so-called “meme-stocks” that were at the center of Reddit’s buying frenzy, AMC Entertainment rose 17%, Express Inc rose 15%, Koss gained 57% in pre-market trading.

GameStop’s spike was spurred by a spike in final hour of regular market hours on Wednesday, after a session that saw trading in the stock halt multiple times due to volatility. The video-game retailer came back into focus after it announced the resignation of its chief financial officer, Jim Bell.

Sources told Insider Bell didn’t actually resign voluntarily, but was forced out by the board as part of a push by activist investor Ryan Cohen. The board aims to make way for an executive that is more in line with Cohen’s strategic vision.

Cohen’s addition to the board in early January, along with his boosted investment stake in the company, fueled the first flurry of moves in GameStop.

After GameStop’s stock doubled, Reddit’s website suffered an hour-long outage in after hours-trading. It is unclear whether the two instances were related, but the Wall Street Bets subreddit page is known to be a popular forum for day traders that recently triggered a rally in multiple shorted stocks.

The clearinghouse that forced Robinhood to restrict trading in volatile stocks because of higher margin requirements published a whitepaper on Wednesday that laid grounds for accelerating the stock-settlement process.  The Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation proposed shortening the settlement cycle for US equities to one day from two, prompting some renewed interest from the retail crowd on Reddit.

Read the original article on Business Insider