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Exposing Hate Online: New SPLC resource tracks role of tech companies in spreading far-right extremism through podcasts

The Southern Poverty Law Center released a groundbreaking, four-part report this week that exposes the origins and growth of the far-right podcast ecosystem over the past decade.

The series is the first investigative report on the SPLC’s new TechWatch, a resource that tracks the role technology plays in perpetuating hate.

The investigative series on TechWatch also examines the extremists and groups that use this technology to create and expand their networks of hate.

“For years, far-right extremists and hate groups have increasingly used technology to spread dangerous messaging, raise money, expand their membership and audience and even coordinate violence,” said Susan Corke, director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project.

“This new resource seeks to expose the various ways these groups use all sorts of tech platforms,” Corke said. “Despite constant warnings to tech companies about the dangers of these groups, more often than not, companies have put profits over the public good. Our hope is resources like this will shine light into dark corners of the web and help propel action by the companies, the public and even Congress to address this dire situation.” 

On TechWatch, SPLC writers and researchers will use data analytics and research to reveal the interdependence of technology and extremism. The page will also feature the SPLC’s reporting from the last decade that focuses on technology and hate and holding Twitter and other platforms accountable.

In the new report, the SPLC analyzed 18 different podcasts from 2005 through 2020 and focused on 882 cast members who appeared on more than 4,000 episodes. The report examines how extremists use podcasts as a tool to build in-person communities and mobilize their base to attend events.

The SPLC found that the podcasts also provided a low-cost, low-risk method of exchanging information and networking internationally. Appearances on international podcasts helped propagandists, event organizers and movement leaders discuss strategies and tactics to promote their movement.

The data also revealed that podcasts played a crucial role in branding and marketing Richard Spencer, one of the core leaders of today’s white nationalist movement.    

“Our research makes clear that extremists are using podcasts to cultivate their own financially lucrative video and livestreaming landscape and spread their messages of hate and disinformation, and the tech companies have allowed, enabled or even been complicit,” Corke said.