Racist, violence-inspiring content reaches large audiences on mainstream social media platforms despite multiple warnings from GPAHE
Accounts associated with the transnational white nationalist network Generation Identity (GI) and related Identitarian adherents continue to reach large audiences through mainstream social media platforms, especially YouTube and Twitter, according to a new report released by the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism (GPAHE) today.
Since the GPAHE’s original investigation in 2020 identifying racist, hateful, and violative GI accounts on both YouTube and Twitter, YouTube continues to host the majority of those accounts. Not only are many GI videos still live, but active accounts have grown their follower counts by a staggering 147 percent. While Twitter deplatformed dozens of GI chapters and other Identitarian accounts immediately following GPAHE’s 2020 report, new research has found that two-thirds of those accounts are now back on Twitter, including some reinstated following Musk’s takeover and others created to evade previous bans. Meta is also allowing GI accounts and content, with GPAHE’s research uncovering about two dozen Instagram accounts with roughly 480,000 total followers in addition to a handful of Facebook accounts. The French #grandremplacement hashtag was used in over 5,000 Facebook posts as of mid-2023 in addition to other GI inspired content.
As the report details, Generation Identity emerged in 2012 and spreads racist and violent rhetoric online especially the dangerous “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory, purporting that white people are deliberately being replaced by non-white people in their own countries. The conspiracy theory has inspired mass murders of Muslims in Canada, New Zealand, Germany, and multiple mass shootings in the United States, including Pittsburgh where 11 Jews were killed, the El Paso shooting targeting Latinos and killing 23 people, and more recently, Buffalo and Jacksonville, Florida targeting Black people, where 10 and three respectively were murdered. They also advocate for “remigration,” an ethnic cleansing by which all people of non-European descent (non-white) – generations of people – would be sent back to their supposed countries of origin.
“There’s no question that the hate and racism of the ‘Great Replacement’ conspiracy theory and the advocacy for non-white people to be ‘remigrated’ pushed by the Generation Identity network and some political figures has inspired numerous violent attacks across the world,” said Wendy Via, co-founder and president of GPAHE. “Social media platforms have been recalcitrant in their refusal to enforce their own rules against the purveyors of this hateful and conspiratorial content. As long as social media platforms allow these dangerous organizations and individuals a megaphone, they must bear some responsibility for the harm that inevitably follows.”
The GI accounts and material that continue to thrive on — and often make money for — the tech platforms clearly should be taken down under the companies’ own policies. The report gives examples of violative accounts and content on each platform.
Of major concern is that harmful material related to political activity continues to be mainstreamed. For example, as the far-right German political party AfD rises in the polls, AfD’s youth wing, called Junge Alternative, which is also classified as a right-wing extremist organization by the German government, has a major presence on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. A member of their youth wing is quoted saying there is “no incompatibility between Young Alternative [and] the Identitarian movement.” In France, Identitarian politician Eric Zemmour, the president of French white nationalist party Reconquête! has made 27 Facebook posts with the GI-inspired #remigration hashtag, helping to spread this dangerous material amongst his supporters.
Also deeply concerning is that some, including ex-GI Spokesperson Thaïs D’Escufon and the organization Ein Prozent (also classified as right-wing extremist by the German government), have rapidly grown followers using new accounts, even after being previously suspended on the same or other platforms. This makes clear the need for tech platforms to consistently and diligently follow their own policies and not allow violative users to come back or use a different name to evade bans.
After much advocacy by GPAHE numerous German GI accounts were taken off of YouTube earlier this year, but much content remains, especially that of political figures. And even though GI as an organization has been banned in France, numerous accounts still remain on YouTube.
GPAHE did not focus on TikTok in its 2020 reporting and has not conducted in-depth research on the platform thus far. After a non-exhaustive search, GPAHE found that TikTok currently platforms 16 GI and Identitarian accounts that have cumulatively amassed over 380,000 followers and 5.2 million likes on their videos.
“What our most recent research found is extremely problematic,” said Heidi Beirich, co-founder of GPAHE. “How can these companies keep a straight face and say they care about protecting their users and stopping the spread of violence-inspiring hateful content when their content moderation actually is getting worse in many cases?”