Proud Boys on Telegram

Authors

  • Wei Zhong New York University
  • Catie Bailard George Washington University
  • David Broniatowski George Washington University
  • Rebekah Tromble George Washington University

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.51685/jqd.2024.003

Keywords:

Proud Boys, Telegram, Far-right, Extremist

Abstract

Utilizing an original data set of public Telegram channels affiliated with a right-wing extremist group, the Proud Boys, we conduct an exploratory analysis of the structure and nature of the group’s presence on the platform. Our study considers the group’s growth, organizational structure, connectedness with other far-right and/or fringe factions, and the range of topics discussed on this alternative social media platform. The findings show that the Proud Boys have a notable presence on Telegram, with a discernable spike in activity coinciding with Facebook’s and Instagram’s 2018 deplatforming of associated pages and profiles with this and other extremist groups. Another sharp increase in activity is then precipitated by the attack on the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, 2021. By February 2022, we identified 92 public Telegram channels explicitly affiliated with the Proud Boys, which constitute the core of a well-connected network with 131,953 subscribers. These channels, primarily from the United States, also include international presences in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the UK, and Germany. Our data reveals substantial interaction between the Proud Boys and other fringe and/or far-right communities on Telegram, including MAGA Trumpists, QAnon, COVID-19-related misinformation, and white-supremacist communities. Content analyses of this network highlights several prominent and recurring themes, including opposition to feminism and liberals, skepticism toward official information sources, and propagation of various conspiracy beliefs. This study offers the first systematic examination of the Proud Boys on Telegram, illuminating how a far-right extremist group leverages the latitude afforded by a relatively unregulated alternative social media platform.

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Published

2024-01-08

How to Cite

Zhong, W., Bailard, C., Broniatowski, D., & Tromble, R. (2024). Proud Boys on Telegram. Journal of Quantitative Description: Digital Media , 4, 1–47. https://doi.org/10.51685/jqd.2024.003

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Articles