'Manosphere' Communities Are Becoming More Toxic, Showing 'Nihilistic and Extreme Anti-Women Ideologies,' Study Shows

Members of fringe groups espousing anti-women rhetoric are migrating from milder online communities and becoming more toxic, data research suggests.

A recent study into the so-called "manosphere"—a network of Reddit pages, social network accounts, YouTube channels and message boards—used a machine learning tool from Google to help track the "toxicity" of user comments, and detailed a clear rise in hate speech over time.

These niche communities do not just shout into the void, their actions have previously sparked online harassment campaigns and violent outbursts.

The scattered collection of male supremacy groups is by no means limited to the involuntary celibate (Incel) community, which shot to the mainstream's attention in 2018 when a man killed 10 people in Toronto after using the term "Incel Rebellion" on social media.

Broadly, members of the incel community gather anonymously to blame women for their lack of sexual relationships, in some cases advocating for physical and sexual violence as a result.

But such groups date back years, and fresh analysis indicates a concerning trend: users are moving from tamer communities in favor of groups with "severe toxicity" ratings.

Researchers built a dataset of about 7.5 million posts from seven forums and over 30 million posts from 57 Reddit pages, known as subreddits, that are linked to the manosphere. Forums included Incels.is, The Attraction, SlutHate and Rooshv. Reddit groups included Pick Up Artists (PUA), Men's Rights Activists (MRA) and Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW).

"Older communities, such as MRA and PUA, are becoming less popular and active, while newer communities, like Incels and MGTOW, are thriving," researchers noted.

The paper continued: "We also find that communities increasingly share the same user base, and that there is substantial migration from the communities to the newer ones. Worryingly, the latter are more toxic and espouse nihilistic and extreme anti-women ideologies."

The findings were laid out in the paper "From Pick-Up Artists to Incels: A Data-Driven Sketch of the Manosphere," as MIT Technology Review reported last week. The data-driven study was one of the most comprehensive conducted on the manosphere communities.

Analysis indicated manosphere-related subreddits showed similar user toxicity levels as other fringe social media or messageboard sites, including Gab and 4chan.

The data suggested users who migrate to new platforms "become more toxic." It indicated that the Reddit pages had "substantially lower toxicity scores" than forums, which could potentially be due to the website having stricter moderation and content removal policies.

Researchers wrote: "There are migratory movements from communities such as MRA and PUA to newer ones, such as The Red Pill, MGTOW, and Incels.

"We also find that some of these movements (PUA to TRP) and (MRA to MGTOW) are associated with an increase in severe toxicity according to [Google's] Perspective API."

The technology uses machine learning to score comments based on toxicity, based on a scale of "Very toxic" to "Very healthy," the developers explain on the official website.

The paper went on to warn: "We find evidence – given significant overlap and migration across communities—that these contradictory ideas may very well be steps toward a radicalization pathway. Many of the individuals involved with the PUA community went onto more extreme anti-feminist communities such as TRP, which in turn strongly migrated to MGTOW."

In 2018, the Southern Poverty Law Center published a history of the male supremacy websites and beliefs, noting overlaps with an emerging political subset: the alt-right.

"A tight overlap exists between the 'alt-right,' white supremacist and male supremacist circles, which feed each other's narratives of the dispossession and oppression of white men, which is blamed on minorities, immigrants and women," the fact sheet read. "Both the alt-right and the manosphere agree that feminism is the cause of Western civilizational decline. In fact, the misogyny intrinsic to the 'alt-right' might very well be one of its distinctive features."

Stock -  Man in Front of Computer
File photo: Man in Front of Computer. A recent study into the “Manosphere” used a machine learning tool to track the “toxicity” of user comments, and detailed a clear rise in hate speech over time. iStock