Incel website relaxed its pedophilia rules amid rising violence

Incel website relaxed its pedophilia rules amid rising violence
  • The Center for Countering Digital Hate published a study on Friday examining incel communities.
  • The study analyzed 1.2 million posts from an incel forum with about 2.6 million visits per month.
  • Violent rhetoric increased by 59%, and forum members posted about rape every half hour.

The most popular online forum for incels – a label that came to refer to men who cannot find sexual partners and express hostility towards women for their problems – increasingly promoted mass murder and showed tolerance of rape and pedophilia. last year, according to a new study.

A report published Friday by The Center for Countering Digital Hate’s Quant Lab analyzed nearly 1.2 million online forum posts over an 18-month period. The site, which remains unnamed in the study, appears to be the most popular forum where incels gather online — with just over 4,000 active members but 2.6 million visits a month, according to researchers.

The researchers argued that incel circles on the site are increasingly endorsing topics that were, at the very least, the subject of debate on other similar forums.

Online incel communities previously differed over whether pedophilia should be tolerated or promoted, the study said, but Quant Lab researchers found that more than half of the forum’s users supported the issue.

“More than a quarter of incel forum users have posted keywords about pedophilia, and pedophilia discussions show that 53% of posts are supportive,” the study said, based on posts from more than 1,143 unique users.

The online forum appeared to change the site’s rules to accommodate this proliferation, the researchers argued.

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On March 5, 2022, the “relevant rules” were changed from “do not sexualize minors in any way, shape or form” to “do not sexualize prepubescent minors in any way, shape or form”.

The analysis also found that violent rhetoric, with posts mentioning “mass murders”, has increased by more than 59% in the last year and a half.

Forum members also posted about rape every 29 minutes and discussions about the act showed that 89% of posters were favorable, according to the study.

Overall, more than a fifth of forum posts featured “misogynistic, racist, anti-Semitic or anti-LGBTQ+ language,” the researchers wrote.

Incel communities aren’t limited to more obscure forums either. Traditional platforms like YouTube, Reddit and Facebook are also popular means of linking content to incels, according to the study.

YouTube, for example, has channels with a total of over 136,000 subscribers and 24.2 million video views. Forums often link the platform to videos informing viewers of incel ideology or even showing women being secretly filmed, according to the study.

A YouTube spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment.

The term incel, short for involuntary celibacy, has morphed since its original coinage in the mid-1990s by a woman who yearned for a community of support for people who could not find sexual partners.

Over time, the label was appropriated to primarily identify men who often blame women for their problems and promote “a hateful and violent ideology” that has led to the death and injury of people, particularly women, the researchers wrote.

The most prominent example was a 22-year-old man, who killed six people and wounded 14 others in Santa Barbara, California, in 2014. Prior to his rampage and suicide, the gunman made it known in online posts he identified with, on time, “a nascent community of incels,” according to the study.

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“Since then, dozens more have died at the hands of self-proclaimed incels around the world,” the study said.

Experts have warned that, if left unchecked, online incel communities will continue to radicalize.

“Here we can see, in real time, the social norms of a community evolving, driven to new excesses,” wrote Imran Ahmed, CEO of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, in the study. “Uncontrolled, incel communities have the potential to further radicalize.”

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