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Waning Storm: Small Population of Active Users Post Count High As Registrations Decline

This post is part of a continuing Hatewatch series examining the Newslinks & Articles section of Until last summer, Stormfront was the most trafficked white supremacist website online. 

High-level analysis of the site’s registrations, the activity of its posters, and their financial contributions reveals an underfunded and dated hate forum struggling to bring in new members despite an unprecedented level of attention given to white nationalism and supremacist ideologies over the past year.

Despite the fact that registrations have declined precipitously since President Barack Obama was elected to his first term, overall posting to the site’s most popular section has remained at historically high levels. This spike began as user registrations peaked around 2008 and persisted through the end of 2016.

Since early 2004, cumulative registrations — all accounts that have been created, both active and dormant — to Stormfront have increased steadily. However, the number of unique posters per month over that same span has remained consistently low, hovering around 1,000 users contributing at least one post to any Newslinks & Articles thread.

This trend indicates that while those roughly 1,000 active posters may not be the same each month, the number of dormant accounts on Stormfront is increasing rapidly.

To get a better idea of the true number of active accounts at any given period on Stormfront, Hatewatch analyzed the activity of posters in three-month intervals. 

An active user is anyone who posted at least once per three-month interval. While there was a high degree of variance in successive activity periods, from late 2008 until the end of 2016, the number of posters fluctuated in a range between 6,000 and 10,000.

Notable outliers during the period examined were the reelection of President Obama in 2012 and the acquittal of George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who fatally shot Trayvon Martin, in July of 2013 – the all time highest number of unique posters for any three-month period on Stormfront.

The spike in posters around the Zimmerman trial is significant because the shooting and subsequent trial was a lightning rod for white supremacists that have long labored to construct a false narrative of black-on-white crime and white victimhood. Dylann Storm Roof, who went on to murder nine parishioners of the Mother Emanuel AME church in Charleston in 2015 cited the Zimmerman case as what prompted him to search “black-on-white crime” in Google, and awakened him to a fictional epidemic of crimes against whites.

Roof was a registered member of Stormfront and used the forum to attempt to meet other Columbia area racists, according to testimony offered by FBI Special Agent Joseph Hamski during the Roof trial.

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