- The Center for Countering Digital Hate published a study on Friday examining incel communities.
- The study analyzed 1.2 million posts from an incel forum with about 2.6 million visits a month.
- Violent rhetoric increased by 59%, and forum members posted about rape every half hour.
The most popular online forum for incels — a label that has come to refer to men who can’t find sexual partners and express hostility towards women for their problems — increasingly promoted mass murder and has shown a tolerance for rape and pedophilia in the past year, according to a new study.
A report published on Friday by The Center for Countering Digital Hate’s Quant Lab analyzed about 1.2 million posts from an online forum in the span of 18 months. The website, which remains unnamed in the study, appears to be the most popular forum where incels congregate online — with just over 4,000 active members but 2.6 million visits a month, according to researchers.
The researchers argued that incel circles on the site are becoming more approving of topics that were, at the very least, subject to debate in other similar forums.
Online incel communities previously differed on whether pedophilia should be tolerated or promoted, the study said, but the Quant Lab’s researchers found more than half of users on the forum were supportive of the subject.
“Over a quarter of incel forum users have posted pedophilia keywords, and discussions of pedophilia show 53% of posters are supportive,” the study said, based on postings from over 1,143 unique users.
The online forum appeared to change its site rules to accommodate for this proliferation, the researchers argued.
On March 5, 2022, the “relevant rules” were changed from “do not sexualize minors in any way, shape or form” to “do not sexualize pre-pubescent minors in any way, shape, or form.”
The analysis also found that violent rhetoric, with posts mentioning “mass murders,” increased over 59% in the past year-and-a-half.
Forum members also posted about rape every 29 minutes and discussions of the act showed that 89% of posters were supportive, the study found.
Overall, more than a fifth of posts in the forum featured “misogynist, racist, antisemitic or anti-LGBTQ+ language,” researchers wrote.
Incel communities are also not limited to more obscure forums. Mainstream platforms such as YouTube, Reddit, and Facebook are also popular means to link to content for incels, the study said.
YouTube in particular has channels with a total of more than 136,000 subscribers and 24.2 million video views. Forums often link to the platform to videos informing viewers on incel ideology or even showing women being secretly filmed, according to the study.
A spokesperson from YouTube did not immediately return a request for comment.
The term incel, short for involuntary celibate, has morphed since its original coining in the mid-1990s by a woman who yearned for a support community for people who couldn’t find sexual partners.
Over time, the label had been appropriated to identify mostly men who often blame their problems on women and promote “a hateful and violent ideology” that has led to the death and injury of people, mostly women, the researchers wrote.
The most prominent example was a 22-year-old man, who killed six people and injured 14 more in Santa Barbara, California, in 2014. Before his rampage and his suicide, the shooter made it known in online posts that he identified with, at the time, “a nascent community of incels,” according to the study.
“Since then, dozens more have died at the hands of self-proclaimed incels around the world,” the study said.
Experts warned that, left unchecked, online communities of incels will continue to radicalize.
“Here we can see, in real-time, the social norms of a community evolving, driven to new excesses,” Imran Ahmed, the CEO of Center for Countering Digital Hate, wrote in the study. “Unchecked, incel communities have the potential to radicalize further.”