Voice of the Industry

The payments industry can help stem the flow of online hate and harm

Wednesday 6 December 2023 09:17 CET | Editor: Irina Ionescu | Voice of the industry

The payments industry can play a critical role in curtailing extremist groups' activities, according to Maya Shabi, Senior Threat Detection & Product Strategist at EverC. Find out how, as we discuss the role of payments in the terror financing chain.

The last several months witnessed a crucial turning point in the crack-down on extremism in the United States, especially concerning groups involved in the infamous Capitol breach on 6 January 2021. The federal prosecutions shed light on a disturbing progression from extremist rhetoric to violent actions, aimed at forcibly opposing the US government. Despite these legal measures, the persistence of far-right extremism remains evident in North America, and the resilience of these hate groups underscores the challenges in eradicating their influence.

Extremist groups online: propaganda and recruitment

The ability of extremist groups to remain active can often be traced back to their online behaviour -members latch on to politicised social issues, producing jokes, memes, and trolling campaigns on various online platforms. They gain traction and communicate through Internet ecosystems like Telegram and fringe platforms such as Gab, 4Chan, and Parler. 

Moreover, circulating disinformation or extremist ideologies on encrypted social media platforms serves as a tool for recruitment and propaganda dissemination. This is not so different from strategies used by other terrorist groups, such as how the Islamic State or al-Qaeda engage with users over social media to bolster their profile and recruit from abroad.  

Multiplayer games and gaming platforms, such as Discord or Twitch, are also fertile grounds for extremism. Members from across the extremist spectrum regularly reach users via gaming spaces to radicalise and recruit followers. In some instances, this has been an effective method to inspire followers to conduct real-world attacks.

Disinformation: a global threat 

According to research conducted by leading digital investigations firm Memetica, there is an increasing ideological convergence between North American extremist groups and designated foreign terror organisations documented on social media. 

Shortly after the attack on Israel on 7 October 2023, pro-Hamas content began circulating on virtually unmoderated message boards frequented by far-right communities, and old tropes about Jewish power went viral across social media, contributing to a drastic spike in antisemitism worldwide.

In this way, Hamas proved its ability to hijack the feedback loop between real-world events and online discourse by weaponising major social media platform dynamics - allowing them to dominate discussions about events in real time. Many far-right extremist groups linked to 6 January 2021 insurrection now view Hamas’ actions as aspirational, sharing clips of attacks against Israeli civilians and military as evidence of how to successfully implement guerrilla warfare tactics against a more powerful opponent. 

This convergence between terror groups like Hamas and domestic far-right extremists was quickly harnessed by state-sponsored media outlets in Iran, China, and Russia, to promote harmful content among Western audiences. For example, several media outlets sharing anti-Israel propaganda are deeply involved in Russia’s broader disinformation ecosystem – which saw similar use in its war against Ukraine.

Abuse of payments channels for terrorist funding

Payment platforms and financial institutions are aware of hate groups abusing financial technology and diverse payments channels to sustain their operations, generating funds to pay for legal fees, supplies, and activities.

Key findings from the Global Disinformation Index’s (GDI) report on online funding strategies of American hate groups show that 83% of identified platforms processing payments were used by hate groups to raise funds, despite policies prohibiting it. Furthermore, 44% of hate groups examined in the study were found to be registered as non-profit organisations in the US, providing a cover of legitimacy to their activities. 

The payments industry has seen a drastic increase in risks associated with processing transactions for websites disseminating racist or hateful content:
  • Law enforcement and regulatory bodies enhanced their focus on disrupting the activity of extremist groups, as well as their supporters;

  • Major card schemes and payment providers halted political donations and payment processing capabilities of extremist sites selling merchandise, appeals for support (donations), and subscription services of independent content creators. Many extremist far right and terror groups are known to raise and move money by employing various forms of transaction laundering. 

Beyond this, many sites offer information, propaganda, and a platform for like-minded individuals to organise without offering anything for purchase.

How the payments industry can help disrupt terrorist funding

The payments industry can play a critical role in preventing extremist groups from raising funds to finance their activities through the following:

  • Employ effective tools to monitor and block extremist activity across online platforms, essentially preventing these groups from acquiring resources to commit public harm;

  • Share intel on trends, best practices, and changing tactics throughout the industry and in collaboration with law enforcement;

  • Use our skills -- digital literacy, technology, and web intelligence - to find new and innovative ways to fight illicit activity online.

With a strong collaborative effort, the payments industry can put a choke hold on funding for extremist and hate groups in the online arena, which can go a long way toward disrupting their activities on a large scale.


Source: Global Disinformation​ Index


About Maya Shabi 

Maya Shabi is Senior Threat Detection and Product Strategist at EverC. Drawing on her expertise in counterterrorism, risk assessment, and mitigation analysis in the intelligence sector, Maya tracks emerging threats to drive thought leadership and product development with the goal of leveraging technology to beat bad actors at their own game. She is deeply fascinated by the evolution of society's engagement with technology, and passionate about standing up for vulnerable and marginalised communities that are most impacted by global threats.


About EverC

EverC is focused on powering growth for the ecommerce ecosystem. Our automated AI-driven, cross-channel risk management solution rapidly detects high-risk merchants, transaction laundering, and illicit products, and provides ongoing monitoring to uncover evolving risks. Our team comprises domain experts in risk intelligence, open-source, deep, and dark web, and online fraud detection. Learn more at www.everc.com

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Keywords: funding, online payments, ecommerce, payments , cross-border payments
Categories: Payments & Commerce
Companies: EverC
Countries: World
This article is part of category

Payments & Commerce


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