Since the inception of the Internet, extremist groups have established an online presence. It was in 1984 that extremist groups started using online services such as bulletin boards to transmit text. Throughout the years, extremist websites have evolved with the changes of the Internet, and early 1995 saw the creation of the first major website of a national race extremist group called “Stormfront”.
There have been only a few attempts to analyze extremist websites systematically. Previous studies such as Haque et al (1999), Schafer (2002) and Gerstenfeld et al (2003) examined extremist web sites on content and use.
This study conducts a content analysis of extremist websites uniquely from the “viewpoint” of today’s Internet user. A sample list of 114 extremist websites (See Appendix A) is sourced from Ray Franklin’s “The Hate Directory”. A content analysis is performed on the sample list, using a list of ten Internet user activities. The sample list represents a multiplicity of extremist groups and includes both primary and secondary players in the extremist world.
The ten Internet user activities are established by conducting a secondary analysis of existing data sets. The main theme extracted from the existing data sets is the ten most preferred online activities of Internet users. The aim is to find whether the ten Internet user activities are present on extremist websites, together with their degree of integration.
It is not the scope of this study to determine whether the sample list is in actual fact a list of extreme or hate groups. The term “hate group” is usually not used by these groups themselves, but rather by their opponents for purposes of discrediting them, or sometimes by historians or sociologists who study them. Many groups that are labelled as a “hate group” disagree with this term because it misinterprets their cause or goal. The scope of this study is to determine how extremists groups are using the Internet and not whether they are extreme or not.
Findings show that, for the most part, the Internet user activities are present on extremist websites. Some extremist websites integrate several of these Internet user activities onto their websites and others only a few. Chapter 5 contains a full analysis of these findings.
Thesis (MIT (Information Science))--University of Pretoria, 2008.