Until yesterday, white supremacist group Atomwaffen had an active presence on YouTube. A previously removed video on its channel featured neo-Nazi members chanting “gas the kikes, race war now” and firing weapons, Motherboard reported, while others included images of swastikas and “black lives don’t matter” signs. When asked about Atomwaffen by The Daily Beast earlier this week, YouTube stated its policy on “borderline” hate speech violations, giving no indication it planned to ban the group’s account. On Wednesday, however, the site did just that.
“This account has been terminated due to multiple or severe violations of YouTube’s policy prohibiting hate speech,” a banner on Atomwaffen’s former YouTube channel reads. Motherboard reports that all of the group’s videos, dating back to June of last year, have been removed. Gizmodo reached out to YouTube for comment on what prompted the company to ban the account now and will update this story if and when we receive a reply.
It certainly seems as though YouTube (belatedly) bowed to public pressure. ProPublica released a damning report on the neo-Nazi group last week. The organisation obtained hundreds of thousands of online chats from Atomwaffen members, including praise for Sam Woodward, a suspect for the murder of a gay, Jewish University of Pennsylvania student Blaze Bernstein. In January, ProPublica published a story linking the group to several other murders.
The chat client Discord also recently banned Atomwaffen, along with a number of other white supremacist groups. “Discord has a Terms of Service (ToS) and Community Guidelines that we ask all of our communities and users to adhere to,” a Discord representative told Polygon. “These specifically prohibit harassment, threatening messages, or calls to violence.” While it’s unclear exactly when Discord removed the groups, Polygon noted that users began griping about the purge on Reddit this week.
“We haven’t seen anything like Atomwaffen in quite a while,” Southern Poverty Law Center researcher Keegan Hankes told ProPulica. “They should be taken seriously because they’re so extreme.”
YouTube’s failure to act on Atomwaffen until faced with mounting negative attention suggests that perhaps the video-sharing service doesn’t take violations seriously until they court bad press. The company has yet to make a convincing display of getting ahead of hateful, violent, and inappropriate content.