July 14, 2022 Special Announcements No. 1222

MEMRI Releases 'The Eye Of The Storm: [Domestic] Terrorists, Neo-Nazis, And White Supremacists Using Cryptocurrency – Part II' – A Landmark Follow-Up Study On Neo-Nazis Using Cryptocurrency, As Jihadis Did Before Them

July 14, 2022
Special Announcements No. 1222

WASHINGTON, DC, July 14, 2022 – In a follow-up to the Middle East Media Research Institute's (MEMRI's) groundbreaking 2019 report on jihadi use of cryptocurrency, by MEMRI Executive Director Steven Stalinsky, that was published as part of the MEMRI Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (JTTM) and Cyber & Jihad Lab (CJL) projects, MEMRI today is releasing a landmark study on cryptocurrency use by domestic terrorist groups. Titled "The Eye Of The Storm: [Domestic] Terrorists Using Cryptocurrency – Part II – Following In Jihadis' Footsteps, Neo-Nazis Turn To Cryptocurrency," this study is authored by Mr. Stalinsky, R. Sosnow, and the MEMRI Domestic Terrorism Threat Monitor (DTTM) team, including A. Agron, R. Dressler, Simon Purdue, PhD, N. Szerman, J. Parker, Aaron Wolfson, and A. Strandberg.

In the preface to this new study, Gen. (Ret.) Michael V. Hayden, four-star Air Force General, former Director of the National Security Agency (NSA) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and member of the MEMRI Board of Advisors, writes: "This second major study by MEMRI about the use of cryptocurrency by terrorist organizations, which is over two years in the making, focuses on the use of cryptocurrency by the sector that is now a paramount concern of counterterror and intelligence organizations both in the U.S. and worldwide. The report focuses on its use by racially motivated violent extremists, primarily neo-Nazis and white supremacists."

Emphasizing its significance, Gen. Hayden adds: "This report is an important contribution to the understanding of the ways in which neo-Nazis and white supremacists operate in the face of enhanced scrutiny of their financial activities. It is mandatory reading for national security officials. MEMRI's Domestic Terrorism Threat Monitor (DTTM) project and Cyber Jihad Lab are vitally important. I know of no other organization that is producing reports with this level of detail about domestic extremist individuals and entities that use, promote, and share information about this important subject for American security."

Fully credentialed members of media and government agencies may request a full copy of the report from DTTMSUBS@MEMRI.ORG.

The 350-page study comprises two years of extensive research, both published and not previously released, from the MEMRI Domestic Terrorism Threat Monitor (DTTM) and Cyber & Jihad Lab (CJL) projects. It includes findings from the comprehensive, ongoing daily monitoring by the MEMRI DTTM team, covering the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Eastern and Western Europe including Russia and Ukraine, Australia, and New Zealand.

The DTTM monitors daily online activity on a range of platforms – both open and password-protected – noting trends, identifying threats, and alerting authorities where warranted, in over a dozen languages – English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Russian, Ukrainian, Swedish, Norwegian, Icelandic, Danish, Polish, Hungarian, Romanian, Flemish, and more.

Follow the DTTM on Twitter here; sign up for free DTTM emails here; apply for a DTTM subscription here.

Since its publication, MEMRI's August 2019 report on jihadi use of cryptocurrency has been shared with dozens of U.S. and foreign government agencies, as well as with academics and others involved in policymaking who focus on this subject. This authoritative research on terrorist use of cryptocurrency was released over a year before the publication of the first government report on the subject – the October 2020 Attorney General's Cyber Digital Task Force on Cryptocurrency – Enforcement Framework – which included similar content.

About the new study, main author Mr. Stalinsky explains: “While neo-Nazis and white supremacists have been using cryptocurrencies as early as 2012, two key events years precipitated a sharp rise in this use. The first was the August 2017 "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, VA, after which many of these extremists found themselves de-platformed by mainstream crowdsourcing platforms, their credit cards blocked, and their accounts with online payment providers such as PayPal, Stripe, Apple Pay and Google Pay shut down. Secondly, following the January 6 events at the Capitol, groups and individuals known to be among the rioters were blocked from mainstream banking and money transfer platforms, including credit cards. Payment platforms such as PayPal and Venmo cut ties with organizations that played a role in these events. These extremists have been benefiting greatly from the growing mainstreaming of cryptocurrencies, which allow them to raise, transfer and spend money very quickly. Their need for alternative means of conducting transactions is the same as criminals' need for such means."

This new study, Mr. Stalinsky adds, will assist Western government agencies in their fight against extremist groups. Their efforts in tackling these groups' use of cryptocurrency are currently years behind what they need to be – just as was the case a few years ago with jihadis and their use of cryptocurrency. However, he added, this use of cryptocurrency in the Russia-Ukraine war may very well prompt authorities to regulate it; while to date extremists have had no trouble promoting and sharing their Ukraine-connected cryptocurrency fundraising campaigns, and there has been no mention of intervention on the part of authorities or on the part of the crypto industry itself, perhaps because until now neither side was fully aware of the extent of this activity – but that this is changing.

Three years after the release of that MEMRI study, well-known neo-Nazis and white supremacists are now, like jihadis before them, widely discussing and promoting cryptocurrency on social media, and accepting donations and other payments in it. Although they began using it when it first appeared on the scene, government authorities could never have imagined how broadly they would adopt it to promote their agendas and facilitate their fundraising, recruitment, and activity on the ground, and devoted very little attention to this issue until recently when it began facing the threat of domestic terrorism, including in Washington, D.C. Since then, it has been a topic of increasing focus and discussion – but little action, either by authorities or by cryptocurrency companies, platforms, and exchanges. This study, along with ongoing MEMRI DTTM cutting-edge research, is a part of that focus and in the vanguard of the issue, consistently ahead of government efforts; this research clearly shows the rapidly growing use of cryptocurrency by these extremists – in the U.S., abroad, and transnationally.  

About The Domestic Terrorism Threat Monitor (DTTM)

The MEMRI Domestic Terrorism Threat Monitor (DTTM) scrutinizes the online activity of neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups and individuals who are circulating hateful and antisemitic content, with a focus on incitement, calls to action, and violent threats against Jewish organizations and institutions, Black people, people of color, the LGBTQ+ community, political and other prominent figures, government officials and agencies, and the public at large, in the U.S. and around the world. It publishes reports about these groups' and individuals' online activities, including reviews of accounts of individuals involved in producing or consuming this content.

About The MEMRI Cyber & Jihad Lab (CJL)

The MEMRI Cyber & Jihad Lab monitors, tracks, translates, and researches jihadi, secular, and other types of hacktivist groups and activity emanating from the Middle East, Iran, and South Asia, and studies jihadis on social media and online, with a focus on their use of encryption and other technologies. It works with tech companies to help come up with solutions for dealing with jihadis and terrorists online, and with legislatures to help develop laws for tackling this phenomenon. It also assists the business community in matters of cyberattacks and cyber threats from these sources.

MEMRI research and translation efforts on identifying jihadi and hacktivist activity have provided crucial resources to educate policymakers, media organizations, the public, and others. MEMRI asks for your help to continue this important work through tax-deductible donations.

About MEMRI:

Exploring the Middle East and South Asia through their media, MEMRI bridges the language gap between the West and the Middle East and South Asia, providing timely translations of Arabic, Farsi, Urdu-Pashtu, Dari, Turkish, Russian, and Chinese media, as well as original analysis of political, ideological, intellectual, social, cultural, and religious trends.

Founded in February 1998 to inform the debate over U.S. policy in the Middle East, MEMRI is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit, 501(c)3 organization. MEMRI's main office is located in Washington, DC, with branch offices in various world capitals. MEMRI research is translated into English, French, Polish, Japanese, Spanish and Hebrew.

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