Neo-Nazis And White Supremacists Are Using Telegram Bots To Recruit Members, Disseminate Content, Maintain Supporter Anonymity, Promote Events, And Obtain Information About Individuals To Be Targeted For Attack

April 13, 2022 | By Steven Stalinsky


 

Table of Contents

  • Introduction

  • Bots Announcing, Promoting, And Providing Information About Events And Activities: White Supremacist Marches, Hitler Conferences, Anti-Government Stickers And Posters For Distributing

  • Bots For Answering Requests: For Information About Individuals To Be Targeted For Attack, New Recruits' Personal Details, Copies Of Mein Kampf

  • Bots For Providing Information And Resources To Readers: Lists Of Extremist Channels, Other Bots, Sources For Posters, Graphics, And Memes For Disseminating, And More

  • Bots For Disseminating Antisemitic And Fascist Quotes – Including From Hitler Bots Used For Recruitment And Outreach

  • Bots For Submitting Information And Content Anonymously

  • Bots Performing Numerous Functions

  • Bots Used For Other Purposes


Introduction

In August 2020, MEMRI published a report titled "Jihadi Use Of Bots On The Encrypted Messaging Platform Telegram."[1] The report documented two years of the MEMRI Jihad and Terrorism Monitor (JTTM) project's study of jihadi use of bots for recruiting, fundraising, planning hacking and terror attacks, and more. It included their use by major terrorist groups – ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and others – and by the most influential hacking groups and cyber activists. It explained the history of the jihadi use of bots, beginning with ISIS in 2014.

According to Telegram's website, "bots are third-party applications that run inside Telegram. Users can interact with bots by sending them messages, commands and inline requests."[2] They can serve a range of purposes, including getting customized notifications and news, integrating Telegram with other services, accepting payment from Telegram users, and "virtually anything else." For extremist groups, bot technology facilitates the spread of their content and messaging. Following in jihadis' footsteps, neo-Nazis and white supremacist groups, for whom Telegram is the "app of choice," just as it is for jihadis, are likewise using bots on the platform to circulate their content online.

Governments around the world have become interested in the use of bots on social media. A Department of Homeland Security graphic published in May 2018 provided background information on how social media bots, including automated and semi-automated bots, are used to carry out attacks such as "click farming," "trend jacking," and "repost storms." The chart also set out how bots are used for purposes ranging from encouraging civic engagement to swaying public opinion to spreading hate speech. It also explains how to identify these bots.[3]

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The DHS graphic explaining uses of bots.

Additionally, A 2021 UN Counter-Terrorism Centre (UNCCT) report "Algorithms And Terrorism: The Malicious Use Of Artificial Intelligence For Terrorist Purposes"[4] cited several CJL reports by MEMRI Executive Director Steven Stalinsky, including the report on the jihadi use of bots[5] on the encrypted platform Telegram, which was cited in the following: "Needless to say, terrorist organizations exploit social engineering tactics online, primarily to help them identify and recruit new members and sympathizers. Indeed, these groups already have considerable experience in using bot accounts."

Examples of jihadi use of bots cited in the MEMRI report included a July 2020 announcement by the pro-Al-Qaeda Jaysh Al-Malahim Al-Electroni Telegram channel that it was recruiting supporters with expertise in programming, "media raids," film montage, hacking, translation, and graphic design. Those interested, it added, should make contact using its bots.[6] The same day, the pro-ISIS Basa'ir Da'wah Foundation, on Telegram, urged supporters, especially designers, poets, and religious students, to join the foundation's team by contacting its bot on the platform.[7]

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Jaysh Al-Malahim recruitment notice; Basa'ir Da'wah Foundation recruitment notice

Creating A Bot On Telegram

The August 2020 MEMRI report explained how Telegram allows users to create bots for sending, responding to, and otherwise managing messages, news, and notifications, and how they can also be used to manage digital assets such as cryptocurrencies.[8] It set out how Telegram's @BotFather tool walked users through the process quickly and easily, and provided support for questions connected to the process.[9]

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As of the date of publication of the report, in order to create a bot, the user first would search for @BotFather on Telegram, and then click on it to begin the process:

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Next, on the command screen, the user would click "/newbot":

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The user was then asked to create a name and username for the new bot. Once this was done, Telegram generated a unique link to the bot where the user could add a description, "about" section, and profile picture, and directed the user to a list of commands that it can be programmed to carry out.

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To view a video of the creation of a Telegram bot, click here or below:

Neo-Nazis And White Supremacists Follow In Jihadis' Footsteps, With Bots For Announcements, Recruitment, And Sharing Content

Like in so many other areas – including use of social media platforms, encryption technology, cryptocurrency, and more – neo-Nazis and white supremacists are doing what jihadis did before them, and are now using bots, particularly on Telegram, for a range of purposes.

For example, on January 25, the white supremacist "White Lives Matter Official" Telegram channel encouraged supporters to become involved, writing: "Being part of this free speech, legal & anonymous world-wide initiative is contigent [sic] upon your dedication to actually getting activism done IRL... It falls upon YOU to actually put your money where your mouth is and get things off the ground." It provides the bot @wlmcontactbot for readers to communicate with the organization and to become involved. The post was forwarded by the New Jersey chapter of the organization.

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Another post promoting the bot was forwarded by the Montana chapter of the organization. It hailed the "pro-White initiative" events held last year across the U.S. and thanked those who "have realized that we are dealing with a cultural war above all else." It added: "We seek to revolutionize the way in which pro-Whites behave and act... We want to de-stigmatize what holding pro-White beliefs actually means." It also urged readers to "show up on 12th of March and spread the White Unity message" and provided the bot, apparently for requesting details.

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Bots are often used to preserve anonymity. The neo-Nazi "Mein Kampfy Korner" Telegram bot allows users to chat without identifying themselves. A conversation about the chat noted that it was for "literal Nazi" people; one interlocutor said that they "might be a nazi sympathizer" and that in their country "you can get worse than being banned off social media" for that.

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The Anonymize Bot also allows unidentified users to post, including posts of violent content.

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A post by the neo-Nazi "National Socialist Club's" Telegram channel "F.A.C.T (Fascist Action Coming Through)," that was forwarded by the white supremacist "Whites Against Loxism" channel, called for "the WN [white nationalist] Community" to "come together and Harass" companies whose employees "risk losing their employment" if their white supremacist and antisemitic views become known, such that these employees "never join the fight in activism and keep their beliefs and views hidden." It says that "WN Community" members should do this by creating "bots that call and email these companies constantly to the point it disrupts their business and hurts their revenue."

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The neo-Nazi "NazBol Party Club – US Civil War Edition" Telegram channel posted a graphic that it said had been created by "an AI bot." It stated: "Ask what the network of international bankers can do for you, not what you can do for the network of international bankers." It added: "an AI bot generated this quote."

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This report will present examples of neo-Nazi and white supremacist use of Telegram bots for various purposes: for announcing and promoting events such as marches and conferences; for submitting information about individuals to be targeted for attack; for new recruits to submit their personal details; for obtaining content such as translations of Mein Kampf; for sharing quotes from Hitler and others; for providing extensive lists of related extremist bots, websites, and Telegram channels; for making anonymous posts; and for a range of other functions.

Bots Announcing, Promoting, And Providing Information About Events And Activities: White Supremacist Marches, Hitler Conferences, Anti-Government Stickers And Posters For Distributing

@Cercle_Hitler_Bot

A post forwarded by the "/LVF/ – LesVilainsFachos" channel from the "Cercle des Amis d'Adolf Hitler" channel on June 9, 2021 announced an event titled "Adolf Hitler: Une Vie, Des Valeurs" to be held June 18 in Paris. It added that interested parties could use the @Cercle_Hitler_Bot to register for the event.[10]

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