Coded language of hate groups makes threats hard to spot

Sick jokes and deadly intentions can often be difficult to tell apart for those policing online culture

The irony-laden vocabulary of the far-right online communities that spawned the terror attack in Christchurch on Friday makes it “extremely difficult” to distinguish a sick joke from a deadly serious threat, according to experts on the international far right and online information warfare.

References to “shitposting”, YouTube stars and the 17th-century Battle of Vienna are hallmarks of “that online culture where everything can be a joke and extremist content can be a parody and deadly serious all on the same page,” said Ben Nimmo, a researcher at the Atlantic Council. “Distinguishing between the two is extremely difficult. You have these communities who routinely practise extreme rhetoric as a joke, so it’s very easy to fit in if you’re a real extremist.”

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