ExtremeBB: Enabling Large-Scale Research into Extremism, the Manosphere and Their Correlation by Online Forum Data [article]

Anh V. Vu, Lydia Wilson, Yi Ting Chua, Ilia Shumailov, Ross Anderson
2021 arXiv   pre-print
Online extremism is a growing and pernicious problem, and increasingly linked to real-world violence. We introduce a new resource to help research and understand it: ExtremeBB is a structured textual dataset containing nearly 44M posts made by more than 300K registered members on 12 different online extremist forums, enabling both qualitative and quantitative large-scale analyses of historical trends going back two decades. It enables us to trace the evolution of different strands of extremist
more » ... deology; to measure levels of toxicity while exploring and developing the tools to do so better; to track the relationships between online subcultures and external political movements such as MAGA and to explore links with misogyny and violence, including radicalisation and recruitment. To illustrate a few potential uses, we apply statistical and data-mining techniques to analyse the online extremist landscape in a variety of ways, from posting patterns through topic modelling to toxicity and the membership overlap across different communities. A picture emerges of communities working as support networks, with complex discussions over a wide variety of topics. The discussions of many topics show a level of disagreement which challenges the perception of homogeneity among these groups. These two features of mutual support and a wide range of attitudes lead us to suggest a more nuanced policy approach than simply shutting down these websites. Censorship might remove the support that lonely and troubled individuals are receiving, and fuel paranoid perceptions that the world is against them, though this must be balanced with other benefits of de-platforming. ExtremeBB can help develop a better understanding of these sub-cultures which may lead to more effective interventions; it also opens up the prospect of research to monitor the effectiveness of any interventions that are undertaken.
arXiv:2111.04479v1 fatcat:b7mommbgr5fq5l4p7giqie56mm