A Social Movement Online Community: Stormfront and the White Nationalist Movement


Purpose – We build on prior research of social movement communities (SMCs) to conceptualize a new form of cultural support for activism – the social movement online community (SMOC). We define SMOC as a sustained network of individuals who work to maintain an overlapping set of goals and identities tied to a social movement linked through quasi-public online discussions. Method – This paper uses extensive data collected from Stormfront, the largest online community of white nationalists, for the period from September 2001 to August 2010 totaling 6,868,674 posts. We systematically analyzed the data to allow for a detailed depiction of SMOCs using keyword tags. We also used Stata 11 to analyze descriptive measures such as persistence of user presence and relation of first post to length of stay. Findings – Our findings suggest that SMOCs provide a new forum for social movements that produces a unique set of characteristics. Nevertheless, many characteristics of SMOCs are also in line with conventional offline SMCs. Originality of the paper – This research broadens our understanding of the differences between online and offline SMCs and presents the special case of the SMOC as a way for scholars to conceptualize and study social movements that use the Internet to form their collective identity.

Media, Movements, and Political Change