Welcome to the next iteration of our weekly roundup, where we compile the various interviews, stories, and research done by our experts over the past week. Before we dive into what we’ve been up to, I’d like to remind everyone that we have set up a research fellowship in our late colleague Mike Donnelly’s name, in order to support a deserving MIIS student. Please read our full announcement of the fellowship and consider donating, if you have the means.
With that, here’s what you need to know about CTEC’s recent work.
QAnon, the pseudo-religious cult-like conspiracy theory, has become much higher profile over the past few months, due to a spike in interest following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and a number of Congressional candidates embracing it. But make no mistake: QAnon is a far-right movement with anti-Semitic elements, and it has already been linked to several acts of violence.
In a recent episode of Back Story with Dana Lewis, CTEC Director Jason Blazakis shares his thoughts on the growing specter of QAnon, its links to homicides and broader security issues, and the movement’s active role in spreading COVID-19 disinformation. You can listen to the full episode here.
Extremism in Spanish and Portuguese
CTEC has been working for the past few months on a partnership with Spectrum Labs, a startup that specializes in building flexible AI for toxic content detection. A team of multidisciplinary Middlebury and MIIS students dove into the darkest corners of the Internet, looking for the Portuguese- and Spanish-language communities where extremism and radicalization fester.
What they found is that genocidal White supremacy and anti-Semitism are thriving on open-web sites frequented by people across Latin and South America, and that these communities discuss Nazi ideologies, call for mass violence, and spread bigotry openly and with overt language. CTEC has long argued that far-right extremism is a transnational issue that ignores cultural boundaries, and our report shows this trend clearly. Check out the full report here.
Investigative journalism at the local level is one of the most effective defenses against disinformation, corruption, and extremism, and CTEC believes strongly in supporting efforts here in Monterey County. That’s why we were honored to hold a workshop with the Monterey County Weekly on techniques for open-source research, including in-depth manual investigations of social media communities as well as large-scale data collection and analysis.
Following the workshop, the Weekly published a profile of CTEC and the steps that we take to do our work. It’s a glimpse into how we locate, analyze, and monitor extremist communities over time. Read our profile in the Weekly here.