Deadly Racist Extremism is Fostered Online, Buffalo Shooting Makes Clear

Human Rights First mourns the senseless loss of life, identifies extremist networks

WASHINGTON D.C. — Another act of domestic terrorism was perpetrated yesterday at a Buffalo market by a mass shooter who had been radicalized into racism and antisemitism on the internet. In yet another example of how networks of racist extremists influence each other, inspiring murder and domestic terrorism, this violent hate crime left ten people dead and three injured.

“Human Rights First mourns the loss of ten Americans murdered simply because they are Black. We must remember these victims and expose White nationalist ‘replacement theory,’ the motive for this heinous crime, as nothing more than racism and bigotry,” said Michael Breen, President and CEO of Human Rights First. “When extremists perpetrate violence like this hate crime, they attack everyone who believes in a fair, just, and pluralistic society. In response, everyone who respects human rights must work together to reaffirm our values, block the pipeline to extremism, and end the rampant violence engendered by extremists.”

Hate-based communities on the internet, in mainstream social media and content platforms, and increasingly on alternative platforms, websites, and services, offer space for White supremacist organizations to operate, recruit, and fundraise.

“Human Rights First will continue to work to expose the ways people are indoctrinated into hate and extremism and cooperate with any and every partner to stanch the flood of violent actions that are a stain on our nation and an existential threat to our democracy,” said Kareem Shora, Human Rights First’s Executive Vice President for Programs and Policy. “When extremists use violence and take innocent lives, they move far from legitimate political discourse to domestic terrorism. The epidemic of hate-driven violence must be stopped.”

Human Rights First has been researching online paths to radicalization like the one taken by yesterday’s shooter.  Human Rights First’s Innovation Lab incubated Raditube to track hate-based narratives on YouTube and map the channels and users who disseminate such content.

“As human rights defenders, we know that online hate doesn’t stay online. This weekend’s tragic events show that violence in one part of the world targeting a religious minority inspires deadly hate against people of color in our country,” added Breen.  “New and ambitious tools are needed to monitor and stop racist extremism from spreading. We will continue to build upon our innovations to identify and track online hate in a way that increases safety and prevents this kind of terror.”

The global amplification of extremists’ manifestos and acts illustrates the transnational nature of the threat to democracy and human life.  Here in the United States, Congress and the administration must act to protect Americans from the deadly violence emanating from these individuals, groups, and platforms.  The organization has also been sounding the alarm to federal policymakers about the online spread of extremism.

Human Rights First’s Director of our Veterans for American Ideals and Outreach, Chris Purdy, testified before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on March 31, 2022, on the targeting of the United States military veterans by white nationalists and other extremists in efforts to turn those veterans against democratic ideals and toward violent extremism. He underscored both the scope of white supremacists’ efforts on this community and their strategies of moving veterans from mainstream social media to alternative platforms like those that radicalized the perpetrator this weekend.

President Michael Breen testified on October 27, 2021, at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships (CP3) 8th Digital Forum, “Moving Past the CVE Era: The New National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism.” Calling violent white nationalist groups and networks the greatest threat to our democracy, Breen commended DHS for moving to a public health-based approach to violent domestic extremism and shared insights from Human Rights First’s research into how extremism grows in the veterans’ community.


Published on September 19, 2022


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