believe that DAOs are the next major hub for coordinated extremism online, you are likely misinformed. This is the argument put forth by an article published by Wired, which alleges that DAOs (Decentralized Autonomous Organizations) could become the platform for neo-Nazis, jihadists, and conspiracy theorists to create their own self-governed states.
The author of the article, Julia Ebner, is an academic extremism researcher who specializes in European political movements. She claims to have infiltrated and attended publicly advertised meetups and Discord audio chats of controversial organizations such as Les Identitaires and Reconquista Germanica.
Ebner argues that researching extremist groups like these is relatively straightforward because their participants often engage in LARPing (Live Action Role Playing) and post edgy content for public consumption without much regard for operational security. She points out that the use of servers based in the United States makes these groups vulnerable to legal action, as the FBI can easily obtain user information through a grand jury subpoena.
Reconquista Germanica, for example, operated through a Discord group, which is known for displaying user communications in an unencrypted format. This means that law enforcement can freely access and disclose these communications. DAOs, too, predominantly use Discord for community management and outreach, including the allegedly right-coded “Redacted Club DAO” mentioned in the Wired article.
However, the article questions the credibility of Ebner’s assertions, as she fails to provide evidence that any of the DAOs mentioned in the article employ cryptoprotocols for communication. It also highlights that the Taliban, a known extremist group, does not use Discord but relies on cryptoprotocols like WhatsApp for coordination.
The Wired article raises concerns about the potential consequences if trolling armies start using DAOs for election interference campaigns. It suggests that extremist DAOs could challenge the rule of law, threaten minority groups, and disrupt democratic institutions. It also warns that DAOs could serve as safe havens for extremist movements, allowing users to circumvent government regulation and monitoring.
However, the article argues that this perspective is exaggerated. It points out that members of extremist groups, like the ones studied by Ebner, already live and work freely in Western societies, expressing their opinions, which are often considered repugnant by the majority. In many countries, holding extremist beliefs and expressing them is not a crime.
The article suggests that monitoring extremist communities on platforms like Discord can actually be beneficial for law enforcement, serving as an early warning system. It criticizes those who argue that the mere existence of these communities, even if legal, is dangerous to society, labeling them as ideological opponents to freedom of expression.
In conclusion, the Wired article challenges the notion that DAOs are the next major hub for coordinated extremism online. It questions the evidence provided by the author and argues that the concerns raised about the potential impact of extremist DAOs are exaggerated. It emphasizes the importance of distinguishing between legal expression of extremist beliefs and criminal activities, as well as the value of monitoring these communities for law enforcement purposes.