At this fall’s inaugural Eradicate Hate conference, held just 10 months after the Jan. 6 insurrection showed how deeply hateful ideologies pervade U.S. society, experts in violent domestic extremism discovered something surprising: hope.
After years of frustration and alarm, several experts agreed they could be on the cusp of establishing ways to deter people from extremism and pull individuals out of hate groups.
The new approaches come as President Joe Biden has prioritized tackling homegrown extremism after years of denial under former President Donald Trump. Meanwhile, far-right extremists have been cowed by criminal prosecutions stemming from the insurrection, as well as pioneering civil lawsuits that hit them where it hurts: their bank accounts.
“Doors are open, in ways they haven’t been before, to try to more directly confront these threats,” said Jared Holt a fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab who researches extremism.
“There’s all kinds of tools at our disposal that we can use to fight this stuff, and there’s a political will to do so right now,” he said. “So, as long as people can maintain a clear vision and momentum against it, I’m hopeful of what we can accomplish in the next year.”
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Two new efforts stuck out to experts.
Moonshot, a company based in London, has figured out how to leverage the much-maligned algorithms that govern social media and online ad platforms, using them not to sell products, but to redirect users who are headed down hateful paths.
And the Polarization and Extremism and Research Innovation Lab, or PERIL, in Washington, D.C, working with the Southern Poverty Law Center, has developed interventions that it says turn would-be extremists away from the movement and help parents and caregivers stop young people from embracing hateful ideas.
The U.S. still faces significant challenges in battling violent, homegrown extremism, experts say. The movement is in constant flux, with threats from white-supremacist-friendly groups such as the Proud Boys, unauthorized militia groups such as the Oath Keepers, and people radicalized by conspiracy-laden movements like QAnon.
But the people tasked with understanding and countering those groups believe there is light on the horizon.