Online socializing is a huge part of most young people’s lives and is usually unrelated to white nationalism. But certain online sites are increasingly the first meaningful points of entry for young people who become engaged with white nationalism. In addition, white nationalists engage their audiences through social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Discord, Telegram, and Gab, and they even recruit through gaming platforms like DLive.
Often young people first encounter sites or YouTube personalities whose ideas seem relatively ordinary and who have attractive presentations. These sites and vloggers, alongside Internet algorithms, such as those used by YouTube to recommend further links based on a user’s past selections, draw young people further and further towards more extreme presentations of white nationalist ideas and calls to action, each step seeming small. Comment sections and links to chat sites with regular contributors reinforce increasingly extreme content by placing it in the context of a familiar community. Through such processes extreme content is gradually “normalized” and reinforced by a social circle. Ideas and positions that a young person might initially have recognized as sharp violations of their values begin to appear acceptable through gradual normalization and group reinforcement.
When young people discover that the white nationalist ideas of these new online social groups are not acceptable to their other friends, they often simply replace local social engagement with time spent on interactive websites. This shift in focus can also begin if a teenager simply has few friends to begin with, feels marginalized, or has been bullied. Increased in-person seclusion accompanied by a focus on Internet activity can be a warning sign that a young person has found new “friends” online.
For a more detailed overview, including a survey of some of the most popular white nationalist platforms and sites, see White Nationalism Online.