A “friendlier” front for racist extremism has spread rapidly across the US in recent months, as active club channels network on Telegram’s encrypted messaging app. ON MONDAY EVENING, Gabrielle Hanson, a pro-MAGA mayoral candidate in Tennessee, walked through the parking lot of Franklin City Hall, on her way to debate her opponent, incumbent Ken Moore, in what was meant to be little more than a typical campaign stop in the small city of Franklin just south of Nashville. What made this scene so different was the fact that Hanson was flanked by members of the Tennessee Active Club, an openly neo-Nazi hate group. One of the men escorting Hanson into the building was Sean Kauffmann, the reported leader of the group whom the Southern Poverty Law Center says has been part of the white supremacist movement for years, and was photographed giving a Nazi salute at a Black Lives Matter rally. The group stood outside the building as the event took place, and they told a local reporter that they were there to provide security for Hanson, claiming that “credible threats” had been made against her. The Franklin Police Department tells WIRED that they have no information about threats against Hanson. Instead, the police department is investigating death threats made against local journalists by Kauffmann’s group in their Telegram channel just hours after the campaign event ended. The threats, which included anti-Semitic slurs and references to white supremacist literature, featured the image of one reporter’s home after one follower asked: “Who is this person? Where can I find them so I can beat the shit out of them?” Active clubs are a decentralized network of groups that have recently become the new, so-called friendlier face of the white supremacist movement, by promoting physical fitness and brotherhood while hiding their true nature. The movement has experienced explosive growth in recent months. For researchers who have been tracking the rise of this movement, the use of Telegram to disseminate threats like those in Franklin highlights the crucial role the encrypted messaging app has played in helping these groups recruit, organize, and spread hate speech to a huge following.

via wired: White Supremacist Active Clubs Are Breeding on Telegram