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Monday, December 09, 2019

Instagram Permits Nick Fuentes' 'Groypers' To Promote Neo-Nazism

Instagram is allowing groypers, followers of white nationalist Nick Fuentes, to promote Fuentes’ white Christian nationalist ideology on its platform, despite policies that seemingly prohibit such content.

Media Matters has identified at least 18 Instagram accounts associated with Fuentes or the groypers, along with at least 29 additional accounts that promoteFuentes and his America Firstgroyper movement by sharingmemes, clips, and links. Many of these accounts feature references to “groypers” or “America First” in their handles, and some are exclusivelydedicated to posting clips from groyper livestreams.

We also found that Fuentes’ groypers often use Instagram’s link sticker feature, which allows users to link to content off the platform, to direct their followers to Cozy.TV, as well as other platforms like Twitter or YouTube. Cozy.TV is a streaming platform that Fuentes launched in 2021, which he describes as “anti-gay, anti-woman, anti-Black, antisemitic.” Fourteen of the accounts Media Matters identified link directly to Cozy.TV in their bios.

Fuentes is a 24-year-old streamer who advocates for the mainstream political right in the U.S. to embrace “white nationalist concerns within the shifting consensus that defines movement conservatism.” He has openly expressedantisemitic, sexist, racist, and homophobic views. He also participated in the 2017 Charlottesville Unite the Right rally and was subpoenaed for his participation in the protests that led to the January 6 insurrection.

Fuentes and his groypers strategically use internet spaces to market their racist messages and coordinateharassmentcampaigns. They have also used social media to organizeevents that seek to radicalize conservatives into backing their far-right beliefs.

Fuentes says he has been removed from several mainstream social media platforms, including Instagram, and also claims to have been blacklisted from several banks, airlines, payment processors, and Airbnb. Twitter banned Fuentes from its platform in 2021 — long after many other platforms had removed him. Fuentes repeatedly tried to evade the ban and return to Twitter, including shortly after Elon Musk took over, but on January 24, Fuentes’ original Twitter account was seemingly reinstated. Fuentes’ grievances about being blacklisted from mainstream institutions have recently helped him gain traction among more mainstream figures on the right, even though he has also praised Twitter in the past for helping him stay connected with his audience. At the time of publication, Fuentes does not appear to have an Instagram account that he identifies as his.

Meta, which owns Instagram, explicitly prohibits “praise, support and representation of white nationalism and white separatism on Facebook and Instagram.” Under the company’s dangerous individuals and organizations policy, Meta claims to ban such content and remove individuals and organizations that ascribe to those hateful ideologies.

One of the accounts identified by Media Matters claims to be the official account of Fuentes' Cozy.TV, and it promotes new streamers, special events, donation requests, and merchandise.

Kai Schwemmer, a 20-year-old groyper influencer, currently has over 12,000 followers on Instagram. Schwemmer uses stylized editing and memes to make his far-right content appeal to younger audiences. Schwemmer also maintains active accounts on other mainstream social mediaplatforms and gained traction on TikTok as a member of the Republican Hype House. Schwemmer also has a notable offlinepresence, speaking at collegecampuses and conservativeevents, which he often promotes on his Instagram account.

Paul Escandon, who recently produced a movie about Fuentes, uses his Instagram to promote Fuentes and America First content. Escandon also hosts a show streamed on Cozy.TV, which also has an Instagram account.

Many of the groyper accounts Media Matters identified also use Instagram to post content that seemingly violates the platform's hate speech policy. While some posts explicitly promote racist content, Nazi imagery, and antisemitic rhetoric, others use coded language and dog whistles to send signals to an in-group audience — a phenomenon Media Matters has previouslydocumented.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Musk's Sudden Ban Of Kanye For Anti-Semitism Enrages Right-Wing Pundits

Rapper Ye’s December 2 ban from Twitter has become almost an act of martyrdom for some right-wing figures who have openly stated that antisemitic rants should be allowed on Musk’s free speech platform.

In the lead-up to his acquisition of Twitter, Musk declared himself a “free speech absolutist,” and soon began offering a “general amnesty” to previously banned accounts once he became the Chief Twit. The move was celebrated by right-wing figures who saw his takeover as a chance to reclaim a presence on the platform.

Despite Musk’s promises to ensure Twitter doesn’t become a “free-for-all hellscape,” harassment, hate speech, and conspiracy theories have flourished on the platform since he took charge. Accounts of a number of previously banned far-right and fringe actors have been restored, while some progressive and anti-fascist users have been hit with seemingly random and unsubstantiated bans.

Prior to Musk’s acquisition, Ye’s account had been temporarily restricted after an antisemitic tweet. His profile and tweets remained visible, but he was unable to create new posts. The post has since been deleted and Ye started tweeting again on November 20. (Musk claimed that Twitter made the decision to restore Ye’s account prior to his takeover.)

Ye’s return to Twitter commenced with his now-infamous “Shalom” tweet, and it was quickly followed by his two separate interviews packed with antisemitic tirades, including professing his admiration for Adolf Hitler. It was not until Ye tweeted a picture of a swastika interlaced with a Star of David that Musk banned his account on the grounds that the post promoted violence.

After Ye’s ban, many right-wing outlets were quick to cry foul on Musk for supposedly walking back his promises for a free speech platform. Some even took their criticism a step further and excused Ye’s post, incorrectly suggesting that his First Amendment right to free speech prevents Musk from banning him — as the new Twitter CEO has vocally opposed “censorship that goes far beyond the law” — or saying that the comments did not rise to the level of inciting violence. Fringe social media users similarlyberated Musk’s decision, with some posts echoing the same antisemitism that got Ye banned. Nick Fuentes, a known white supremacist who has been working closely with Ye, lambasted Musk for bowing to “high pressure activist groups (Jewish)” and making Twitter a “controlled platform.”

While many of those critical of Ye’s ban have been quick to note that antisemitism and other forms of hate are protected free speech, countless experts and analysts have pointed to the very real and harmful effects of unchecked hate speech. High-profile instances of antisemitic speech like Ye’s have been accompanied by banner drops, instances of vandalism, and other acts that serve only to further hatred against Jewish people.

  • On the December 2 edition of The Daily Wire’s The Ben Shapiro Show, Ben Shapiro sharply denounced Ye’s antisemitism, but still asked: “Is what Ye is doing tantamount to incitement? I don’t think so because I have a very strict legal standard for incitement. So do I think Ye actually should be banned from Twitter? I think the answer is no. I don’t think that Ye should be banned from Twitter. … I actually don’t think that Musk should have done it.”
  • Infowars published an article bemoaning that “Musk said last week he was going to launch a ‘general amnesty’ this week and start unbanning people en masse if they hadn’t ‘broken the law or engaged in egregious spam’ but instead he has banned Ye over complete bulls**t.”
  • A December 2 article on Breitbart asserted that Ye’s suspension from Twitter demonstrates that Musk’s calls for “free speech absolutism” on the platform is “a fantasy.”
  • Tayler Hansen, an independent conservative journalist known for covering the January 6 Capitol insurrection, pushed back against Musk’s decision on Twitter, saying, “As a free speech absolutist this permanent ban doesn’t feel right— even if you vehemently disagree with what @kanyewest was saying today, he did not break the law. What is the official reason for Ye’s perma-ban?”
  • Conservative media pundit and virulent racist Ann Coulter also lambasted Musk for suspending Ye, arguing, “You believe in free speech or you don't, @elonmusk. Even the ACLU defended a Nazi parade on free speech grounds. This isn't even a parade. It's just WORDS.”
  • Newsmax producer Justine Brooke Murray defended Ye’s right to post anything on Twitter: “You can’t pick and choose when to support free speech. Let antisemites like Kanye publicly humiliate themselves. Remember Skokie, Illinois?”
  • Timcast Editor-in-Chief Cassandra McDonald tweeted, “Instead of saying I support free speech I’m just going to start saying I support the freedom to offend. It shouldn’t need to be said, but it does.”
  • Discussing Ye’s suspension on Fox News’ The Five, co-host Jeanine Pirro claimed, “America was founded on the concept of free speech. Hate speech is protected. … You’re free to say whatever you want.”
  • Actor Kevin Sorbo tweeted, “I may not agree with what Ye said yesterday. But he has the right to say it. That’s how free speech works.”
  • Podcast host Joe Walsh tweeted, “As an American, I will defend any American’s right to be an anti-Semite, or a bigot, or a racist. Because I will always defend free speech. But as a human, I will fight against all anti-Semitism, bigotry, and racism. Because I will always fight against evil.”
  • On Newsmax, conservative contributor Erin Elmore said, “The speech we should protect is the speech that offends us the most, and we do live in the United States of America and as conservatives, we’ve often said, ‘We're being censored, we're being silenced.’ Nobody should be censored or silenced.” Daily Caller reporter Brianna Lyman added, “It's very concerning for me to hear this, but nonetheless, Kanye has the right to say this. Now with Twitter specifically though, the biggest question is what is the official reason that Musk banned him. If it's because of what he said on Infowars, then Musk does not believe in free speech like he claims he does.”
  • Cartoonist Scott Adams tweeted, “If the limit to free speech is ‘inciting violence,’ free speech is an illusion. If Elon Musk gets to decide how much you incited violence with your free speech, are you free? Not even close. It doesn't matter who decides. It isn't a practical standard in a woke world.”

  • Conservative social media influencers Hodgetwins wrote, “Kanye said some crazy shit. Nobody agrees with him saying he supports Hitler and Nazi’s, but he shouldn’t of been banned. No laws broken, he didn’t incite violence. We can disagree with what people say but that doesn’t mean they should be permanently banned.”
Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Musk Sold Blue Checkmarks To Extremists Now Spreading Hate On Twitter

In recent days, numerous Twitter accounts that were suspended for violating the platform’s rules or have a documented history of spreading conspiracy theories and hate speech have purchased a check mark through the new Twitter Blue feature.

On November 9, Twitter launched its updated Twitter Blue feature. The program allows users to pay $7.99 a month for a blue check mark -- which previously served to signal that the account’s identity had been verified -- and “early access to select new features,” such as “half the ads” and priority ranking for “quality content.”

In a Twitter Space held the same day, Musk tried to address some concerns, including about the new Twitter Blue feature and advertisers' concern around hate speech on the platform. During it, he baselessly claimed that ads will not appear next to hate speech and that “the propensity of someone to engage in hate speech if they have paid $8 and are risking the suspension of their account is going to be far, far less.” He provided no evidence for either claim.

Musk’s Twitter Blue has drawn criticismandconcern, as users quickly abused the service to impersonate religious figures, government officials, politicians, athletes, brands, and others. (Twitter’s current policies still claim that “blue checkmarks may be taken away at any time for any reason at all by Twitter, including as the result of certain types of violations of the Twitter Rules, including but not limited to our rules around spam, ban evasion, and impersonation.”)

Media Matters has already identified several users that now have a blue check mark through a paid subscription to Twitter Blue, even though they have been previously banned or suspended from Twitter for violating its rules or are known to spread extreme content, hate speech, and misinformation. Some of these accounts have even already spreadhate or misinformation since purchasing Twitter Blue.

Libs of TikTok

Anti-LGBTQ account Libs of TikTok has become notorious for spreading anti-LGBTQ rhetoric on Twitter, while targetingschools, Pride events, and individuals. The account has been suspended from Twitter multiple times for hateful conduct.

Gays Against Groomers

Anti-trans group Gays Against Groomers has also worked to push the baseless claim that trans people are “groomers” and spread anti-trans sentiment on both Twitter and Instagram. Gays Against Groomers has been suspended from Twitter at least four times in the past.

Billboard Chris

Chris Elston, who goes by Billboard Chris on various social media platforms, is a Canadian anti-trans activist known for harassing trans health care providers. His Twitter account has been suspended at least once in the past and since his return, he has continued to document his stunts and post harmfulrhetoric about trans people.

Catturd

Right-wing troll account Catturd – which Musk has interacted with on Twitter – has used the platform to spread misinformation and conduct harassment campaigns.

Bryson Gray

MAGA Rapper Bryson Gray has expressed support for white nationalist Nick Fuentes’ America First movement, using his Twitter platform to do so. Gray is also set to do a livestream with white nationalist Baked Alaska on Fuentes’ streaming platform on the evening of November 10. In a video on the Telegram channel of QAnon promoter Jeffrey Pedersen, who goes by the handle “intheMatrixxx,” Gray invoked the QAnon slogan: “Where we go one, we go all.”

Red Eagle Politics

Jack Francis, who goes by Red Eagle Politics, is a member of the American Populist Union, a group similar to Fuentes’ America First. Francis has expressed support for the America First movement on his Twitter account.

Blake Kresses

Blake Kresses -- a member of the Republican Hype House, a former Turning Point USA ambassador, and a content host for right-wing nonprofit Today is America -- now hosts a far-right YouTube show along with Today is America members Kaden Lopez and Gabriel Victal (who also has subscribed to Twitter Blue). Their show has featured Kai Schwemmer -- a known associate of white nationalist Nick Fuentes. During the show, Kresses referred to Schwemmer (who is also featured in Kresses’ Twitter banner photo, along with Jack Francis aka Red Eagle Politics) as a “favorite good friend” and promoted his streaming content on Fuentes’ website. Kresses has repeatedlypostedblatantanti-LGBTQ rhetoric to his Twitter account and has been suspended at least once for doing so.

White Supremacists Jason Kessler and Richard Spencer

In 2017, Twitter changed its account verification policy after facing criticism for verifying Jason Kessler, a white supremacist behind the deadly Unite the Right rally Charlottesville, Virginia. Twitter revoked Kessler’s verification, along with other white nationalists like Richard Spencer. Both Kessler and Spencer have subscribed to Twitter Blue, and Kessler is even advocating for Musk to reinstate fellow white supremacist David Duke.

QAnon-supporting Accounts

Twitter accounts belonging to Nicholas Veniamin, host of a QAnon podcast, and Woke Societies, a QAnon showbanned from YouTube, have also been able to acquire a blue check mark through a paid subscription.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Trump’s ‘Truth Social’ Posts Show Why Meta Shouldn't Restore His Status

As Meta considers whether to allow former President Donald Trump back on its platforms, his increasingly extreme behavior on his social media platform Truth Social — pushing misinformation and amplifying conspiracy theories — demonstrates the potential real-world harm that such a move would pose.

Meta suspended Trump from posting on its platforms for at least two years after the January 6 insurrection, publicly citing his use of Facebook “to incite violent insurrection against a democratically elected government.” Less than four months from now, Meta will decide whether “the risk to public safety has receded” to allow Trump back on Facebook and Instagram — which Meta global affairs president Nick Clegg recently suggested was likely. According to Clegg, “accuracy or sentiment about” Trump’s content would not be a “driving factor” in the decision to end his suspension.

While suspended from Meta’s platforms and other social media, Trump launched Truth Social in February to get back online and avoid moderation. The platform has become a home for dangerous and hateful content, including Trump’s own 1,524 posts (through October 2) and an additional 673 posts that he has shared. In fact, many of these posts are centered around pushing election misinformation, attacking and inciting violence against his political foes, and promoting the QAnon conspiracy theory.

Trump’s activity on Truth Social mirrors his behavior on Facebook before he was suspended and his extreme rhetoric even since the violence on January 6. Media Matters previously found that roughly a quarter of Trump’s Facebook posts between January 1, 2020, and when he was suspended on January 6, 2021, contained COVID-19 misinformation, election lies, or extreme rhetoric about his critics. Trump also maintained a presence on Facebook since being suspended, with Facebook ads from his joint fundraising committee pushing election misinformation and Facebook videos of Trump’s misinformation-filled rallies that have earned millions of views.

Trump continues to push and amplify election misinformation, other false claims, and the QAnon conspiracy theory on Truth Social.

Pushing election misinformation

Trump’s denial of the results of the 2020 election, and his prolific social media posts on the topic, contributed to the January 6 riot at the capitol, and subsequently to his suspension from Meta's platforms. He has continued to spread the same incendiary election lies on Truth Social.

In posts with such misinformation, Trump claimed that Democrats’ “biggest LIE, by far, is the results of the Presidential Election,” and that the “Election was Rigged and Stolen.” He also promoted Dinesh D’Souza’s Big Lie documentary 2000 Mules. Media Matters analyzed Trump’s posts on Truth Social and found at least 58 mentions of the word “rigged” in at least 55 posts, and at least 255 mentions of the word “election” in at least 195 posts.

Pushing misinformation about the FBI searching Mar-a-Lago

A subset of Trump’s recent posts on Truth Social focused on the FBI’s search for government documents at his Florida property. Once again, Trump’s rhetoric led to his supporters threatening violence online, and eventually to real-world harm when one man attempted to attack an FBI office in Cincinnati, Ohio.

In one of Trump's posts about Mar-a-Lago being searched, he attacked the judge who authorized the warrant, claiming he held “animosity and hatred of your favorite president,” even after the judge was subjected to right-wing attacks. In other posts, Trump claimed that all documents in his possession were declassified and that the FBI took privileged material, and he shared a statement that claimed that the search was “not necessary or appropriate” and an attempt to “stop me, and the Republican Party, once more.” Trump repeatedly referred to the search as a “raid.” In fact, there were at least 116 mentions of the word “raid” in at least 92 of his posts. There were also at least 77 mentions of the term “Mar-a-Lago” in at least 67 posts.

Amplifying the QAnon conspiracy theory

Trump has repeatedly amplified and pandered to the QAnon community on Truth Social. Based on Media Matters' analysis, Trump has amplified at least 61 QAnon accounts more than 130 times on Truth Social. On September 27 and 28, Trump amplified at least 11 different QAnon accounts a total of 22 times.


Trump amplified QAnon at least 315 times on Twitter before being suspended, and has since moreopenlyembraced the conspiracy movement — continuing to amplify such accounts and using a QAnon-related song during campaign events. The QAnon conspiracy theory has been tied to various acts of real world violence and is considered a potential domestic terror threat by the FBI. Meta's policies against militarized social movements include a ban on accounts promoting QAnon, but Clegg has decided to highlight Facebook’s likelihood of restoring Trump’s account at a time when Trump has increasingly promoted the conspiracy theory.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.