Twitter Philanthropy Can Combat Online Extremism

Two mass shootings rocked our nation earlier this month in fewer than 24 hours. At a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, a man killed 22 people. About 1 a.m. the next morning, another individual killed 10 people in the Oregon District of Dayton, Ohio. As has been reported, white nationalism inspired the former while the latter delved into left-wing politics.

The sad fact of the matter is that we’re in the Election 2020 season already, and politicians can’t be expected to act with the required objectivity in this climate. The rhetoric politicians should reserve to describe the mass shooters might well be used to label one another. We need to turn our focus to those rare areas of bipartisanship, and some have admirably worked to do just that.

For example, there’s a gentleman on Twitter named Bill Pulte who has fostered something he calls “Twitter philanthropy.” The goal is to help people who need outreach and funding, and the process is rather simple: Respond to a call to action found among Pulte’s daily tweets and then retweet with #TwitterPhilanthropy to share your support and encourage others to do the same. The movement is like compounding interest for others in need, and seems to be pretty effective.

Yes, there really are internet ventures that exemplify empathy, love, and the intrinsic value of human life — ideals that reject and weaken the racism and antisemitism that fuel white nationalism and other forms of hatred. Such counterbalances are probably more effective than policing the dark areas of the internet.

Monitoring websites such as 8chan, that might act as a breeding ground for radicalization, can present roadblocks. White nationalists who catch wind of the scrutiny could too quickly go under the radar and find another platform. Even if they stayed put, how long would it take experts to decipher actionable intelligence among the hateful messages? It’s also not apparent how we’d quickly and efficiently distinguish between offensive free speech and tangible threats of violence.

What’s needed are apolitical solutions that offer the potential to populate the internet at an exponential rate. Hateful ideologies and potential attack plans can spread like wildfire, and it should get countered in kind. Pulte garnered support, in the form of a quote tweet, from President Trump. Working as a team, it’s no exaggeration at all to expect goodwill to reach millions.

White nationalism presents a clear and present danger that must get called out by name and confronted head-on. However, focusing solely on white nationalism ignores the extreme motives behind such mass shootings as the Pulse nightclub and the 2017 Congressional baseball practice shooting. Ignore white nationalism altogether, and we miss the motivation behind 2015’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church shooting in South Carolina.

Spreading acts of altruism enables people to reduce suffering in the world, and they reconnect with happiness as a result. These acts of kindness further boost appreciation of human life.

For impressionable young men who undergo social isolation, seeing acts of compassion might be an antidote.

About the Author
Chris Bustin identifies as a civil, moderate conservative who lives in the crucial U.S. presidential swing state of Florida. Among other things, Chris desires to fight bigotry by separating the truth from false political rhetoric. Chris earned his B.A. in Professional and Technical Communication from the University of South Florida, Sarasota-Manatee.
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