In this blog, Jeff draws on his Tradecraft expertise to examine the evolution of the 8kun social media platform favored by ideologically motivated violent extremist groups like QAnon and the role open-source intelligence (OSINT) has to play in tracking this evolution.
The recent increases in violent extremist activity that have been witnessed in the US and globally have highlighted the critical need for constant monitoring of extremist threat actors and groups to detect and prevent risks to communities. The case of 8kun provides insights into how investigation teams can track the rapid online spread of extremist views and actors within and across platforms with the help of advanced OSINT technology.
8kun provides an interesting case study as it shows how social media platforms can quickly become popular amongst violent extremist groups, help them to spread their views, and then become depopulated and replaced with other platforms just as quickly.
8kun is most well-known for aiding the spread of the QAnon conspiracy and being the site of choice for ‘Q’ to disseminate the ‘Q Drops’ in the leadup to the January 6th, 2021 violent protests at the US Capitol. The increased attention that these events brought to the 8kun site, however, led to an exodus to other social media platforms such as Discord, VK, and Telegram with users seeing benefits in the encrypted and private nature of those sites, even if they are less anonymous than 8kun.
Many threat actors also migrated to sites more aligned with their specific brand of extremist ideology, many of which are located on the Dark Web and give users the belief that they are not being monitored by ‘glowies‘ and have more opportunities to freely undertake ‘red pilling’. Significantly, the trend of extremist actors moving into the deeper and darker corners of the web points to the need for advanced and sophisticated data collection techniques combined with AI-driven analytics to quickly identify the most important and risky content from masses of online data.
The evolution and de-population of 8kun, described in our industry brief, highlights the importance of constant and automated monitoring of social media platforms to stay current with the rapidly changing threat picture.
At Fivecast, we work with customers in national security, defense, law enforcement, and the corporate sector globally to apply advanced OSINT technology to not only collect data from across the Surface, Deep, and Dark Web but also create a customized risk detector framework driven by AI and advanced machine learning. Configurable and user-trainable risk detectors can then be deployed to detect specified keywords, phrases, logos, images, memes, and quotes to track and continuously monitor issues, actors, and groups. The breadth of Fivecast OSINT capabilities helps uncover trends, insights, and risks across many different threats including from violent extremist movements.