Left unchecked, incels are radicalizing further: hatred of women, glorification of violence increasing, and now pose a serious threat to children.
An in-depth study of the most influential and largest incel forum (which we call the ‘Incel Forum’) by the Center for Countering Digital Hate’s Quant Lab has exposed a 59% increase in mentions of mass attacks, widespread approval of sexual violence against women, with 9 in 10 posters supportive, and support for pedophilia, with the rules explicitly changing in March 2022 to permit the sexualization of ‘pubescent minors’.
The ‘Incel Forum’ receives an average of 2.6 million monthly visits, with 17,000 members. Discourse is driven by 406 ‘power-users’ who produce 74.6% of all posts on the forum, some spending upwards of 10 hours a day on the forum. In some cases, boys as young as 15 are being led down a rabbit hole of hatred and extremism.
CCDH data scientists analyzed almost 1.2 million posts made over an 18 month period and found:
- There was a 59% increase in the use of terms and codewords relating to acts of mass violence.
- Rape is mentioned, on average, every 29 minutes. 9 in 10 (89%) of posters in relevant discussions were supportive of sexual violence against women.
- During the period of study, the Forum’s rules changed to permit the sexualization of “pubescent minors”. Analysis of discussions of pedophilia on the forum show that 53% of posters are supportive of sexual violence against children.
- One in five posts on the Forum features misogynistic, racist, antisemitic, or anti-LGBTQ+ language.
Mainstream social media platforms are enabling pathways into the ‘Incelosphere’. Incel Forum posts most frequently link to YouTube. Users often link to Incel TV, a channel YouTube has previously refused to remove. Another called ‘Sluthate Creeps’ posts videos of women who they have covertly filmed.
A feeder network of three additional forums operated by the same two owners of the Incel Forum attracts a broader audience of vulnerable people. We call this network of feeder forums and the Incel Forum the “Incelosphere”. These feeder forums are dedicated to discussion of body image and dysmorphia, suicide, and unemployment, targeting people in distress, despair or with poor mental health. Analysis of Google showed that these forums appear high up in Google searches for terms associated with these forums’ themes. The ‘Incelosphere’ network of 4 sites has over 55.8K members, receiving an average of 7.6M monthly visits between them.
Imran Ahmed, CEO of the Center for Countering Digital Hate said:
“Incels are not lone wolves or socially isolated. They are in fact enmeshed in highly active communities with a coherent, evolving ideology that has radicalized further in the past eighteen months. They are egging each other on to commit mass violence, normalizing sexual violence against women and even codified their approval of sexualizing children.
“Big Tech companies, like YouTube, Twitter and Cloudflare, have enabled this community. They know about the problem but have failed to act. They are voluntarily providing a platform and monetizing content that encourages atrocities against women and girls
“We need new legislation to force Big Tech to do the right thing and protect women, girls and the young men who are being drawn into this evil ideology. ”
- YouTube must remove incel channels identified in this report which are a haven for incel-related hatred.
- Google must de-rank incelosphere websites in search results for terms connected with inceldom, body image, suicide, and unemployment.
- CloudFlare must stop providing services to the ‘Incel Forum’ and feeder sites.
- Twitter should close down the ‘Incel Forum’’s official Twitter account.
- Platforms must address digital harms such as body image and mental health that can drive children into incelosphere communities.