“Much like a lot of researchers and journalists on this beat, I’m yo-yo-ing between hopeless and furious,” said Becca Lewis, a researcher with the technology research nonprofit Data + Society. “It’s not gratifying to be right in this situation.”

Researchers told NBC News that they had raised concerns about online extremism both in conversations and in published research papers, but said their warnings and ideas to help prevent online radicalization have been largely ignored. Lewis published a report in September that detailed how YouTube influencers and far-right extremists gamed YouTube’s algorithm to push radicalization messages and turn a profit…

Phillips said that the most toxic parts of the internet grew out of a digital culture of trolling that had at one time seemed mischievous but mostly innocuous. That changed dramatically in the past several years, as memes and provocateurs on social media began to pervade both pop culture and politics. Millions of dollars were poured into propping up meme-based political content and advertisements, both from U.S. political campaigns and lobbying organizations as well as shadowy foreign influence campaigns seeking to sow division and amp up racist rhetoric.