…by Becca Lewis, a PhD candidate at Stanford University and a graduate affiliate at the University of North Carolina’s Center for Information, Technology, and Public Life
Guardian: In the fall of 2018, I released a research report warning of a growing trend of far-right radicalization on YouTube. Specifically, I identified a loosely connected network of reactionary YouTubers, ranging from mainstream conservatives and libertarians all the way to overt white supremacists and neo-Nazis, who were all broadcasting their political ideas to young audiences.
Tethered together by a shared opposition to “social justice warriors” and the mainstream media, they frequently collaborated with each other and amplified each other’s content. In the process, they made it extremely easy for a viewer to move bit by bit into more extremist content.
I warned in 2018 YouTube was fueling far-right extremism. Here's what the platform should be doing: https://t.co/aOtOE9wX7H
— Jamie Arrowsmith (@arrowsmith) December 11, 2020
The following March, I watched in horror along with much of the rest of the world, as a white supremacist gunman killed 51 people and injured 40 more at the Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Throughout the chaos of the day, researchers parsed his manifesto and found that under the layers of irony and memes, the message was quite clear. He had been radicalized to believe in the Great Replacement, a white nationalist conspiracy theory that claims that white populations are being purposefully replaced with (often Muslim) immigrants.
Christchurch mosque massacre report: security services had “inappropriate focus” on Islamist extremism before the attack, didn’t sufficiently explore the right-wing terror threat. Good lesson for all of us in our counterterrorism work. Also, shooter was radicalized via YouTube. https://t.co/tXA1j7JSMT
— Jenni💫 (@Dr_Col_J) December 8, 2020
The shooter’s manifesto clearly spelled out his racist and Islamophobic beliefs, but it provided scant information on how he came to embrace them.
On Monday, with the release of the Royal Commission’s inquiry into the attacks, we got a fuller picture: the Christchurch shooter was radicalized on YouTube, by many of the propagandists myself and other researchers had warned about. So why didn’t YouTube take action sooner, and what should they be doing now? read more