Understanding Violent Right-Wing Extremism in Online Communities

February 1, 2024

Political and ideological extremism is on the rise in the United States. This trend is causing concern among law enforcement and intelligence agencies that the increase in extremism will lead to an increase in extremist violence.

Dr. Ryan Scrivens, Dr. Steve Chermak, and MSU alum Dr. Amanda Osuna are part of a team of researchers working to better understand violent right-wing extremism. The research team is looking into how extremism can develop online and potentially lead to violence in the real world.

The research team defines extremism as the belief that the success of one’s “in-group” is dependent upon the actions of “out-group(s).” It is this belief that leads extremists to take offensive and defensive actions to ensure the survival of their “in-group.”


The digital landscape of right-wing extremism is largely uncharted; however, researchers do know where to look to find the extremists. Iron March and Fascist Forge were two of the most popular forums among right-wing extremists that were known for being instrumental in shaping extremist ideologies. Both Iron March and Fascist Forge are now defunct, which allowed the research team to extensively review the content of both platforms.

The research team knew that there would be plenty of extremist ideologies shared and discussed on these platforms, but they were looking for posts and discussions from forum users who were advocating for violent mobilization efforts in particular.


While analyzing the data, researchers were surprised to find that a majority of the content on these forums was not users airing their personal grievances. Instead, the users discussed ideological-based grievances, mostly around immigration and government policies.

Then, the researchers found something particularly alarming: there was a significant amount of violent extremist mobilization efforts on Fascist Forge.

By analyzing the content surrounding these mobilization efforts, the research team was able to establish a pattern among users of this forum. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the users who advocated and encouraged others to commit acts of extremist violence were also the most likely to take concrete steps to initiate mobilization efforts themselves.


Dr. Scrivens says "this research provides law enforcement and intelligence agencies with insight into extremist indicators that they should look further into as they examine online communities of the extreme right as well as whether specific patterns in posting activity warrant future investigations.”

In other words, the findings can greatly help law enforcement agencies identify credible threats and prevent potential extremist violence.


While this research is a great starting point, the work of this research team is far from over. Plans for future research are already in the works.

These research projects will compare platforms that are known for facilitating violent extremism (such as Iron March and Fascist Forge) and platforms that are known for facilitating non-violent extremism. Researchers say this will continue to help better understand the indicators of potential violence and lead to a safer society.


Read the research team's full article here.