The National:

YOUTUBE provides a network for far right extremists such as Scot Colin Robertson, aka Millennial Woes, to promote white supremacist views and radicalise people, according to a new report.

A research institute called Data & Society has identified what it calls the Alternative Influence Network, a group of controversial academics, pundits and celebrities promoting a range of right wing political views all the way up to “overt white nationalism”.

The study tracked 65 YouTubers—some of them openly white nationalists—as they collaborated across YouTube channels. While collaborations can sometimes consist of debates and disagreements, they more frequently indicate social ties, endorsements, and advertisements for other “influencers”, the study said.

Combined, these vloggers have millions of followers who – searching for video game reviews, for example – can find themselves clicking through increasingly radical-right videos and end up watching white nationalists such as Robertson.

Data & Society has called on Youtube to respond with policies to combat these influential YouTubers reaching young people by broadcasting far-right ideas in the form of news and entertainment.

The report said that people such as Robertson and Robert Spencer, an anti-Islam activist based in the US, are at the more extreme end of the network.

Other controversial figures named in the report include former BNP member and convicted fraudster Stephen Lennon, aka Tommy Robinson, who founded a violent anti-Islam group called the English Defence League, renowned for street violence.

Far right YouTubers frequently collaborate across ideological lines, the report said, adding they have created a “fully functioning media system” which, they claim, “provides an alternative media source for news and political commentary”.

Milo Yiannopoulos, a British media provocateur with ties to white nationalists was also named. He was formerly a senior editor at Breitbart News but resigned after publicly making comments in support of paedophilia.

While many views differ among the 65, the report’s author Rebecca Lewis says they all share a fundamental contempt for progressive politics, specifically for contemporary social justice movements.

Lewis said: “When viewers engage with this content, it is framed as lighthearted, entertaining, rebellious, and fun. This fundamentally obscures the impact that issues have on vulnerable and underrepresented populations—the LGBTQ community, women, immigrants, and people of colour. And in many ways, YouTube is built to incentivise this behaviour. “

She added: “The platform needs to not only assess what channels say in their content, but also who they host and what their guests say. In a media environment consisting of networked influencers, YouTube must respond with policies that account for influence and amplification, as well as social networks.”

Robertson is a white nationalist vlogger from Linlithgow who found notoriety with his controversial Millennial Woes blog, broadcast on YouTube from his bedroom.

In one video he said: “I just didn’t want loads of black people in my country. It came down to a racial thing, a racial loyalty. I didn’t want black people, I didn’t want Indians, I didn’t want Chinese, I didn’t want Arabs, I wanted my country for my people.”

Robertson was exposed in 2017 as a jobless, ex-student living at home with his father.

In 2017 the anti-racism organisation Hope Not Hate said that Robertson gave a speech at a far right conference in Stockholm Sweden, in which he quoted the “14 words”, a popular white supremacist slogan that states: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children."

A spokesperson for Hope Not Hate said: “His short but extreme speech left the audience under no illusions about his belief in racial nationalism.”

Lewis highlighted links between Robertson and Carl Benjamin, who “frequently collaborates with openly white nationalist YouTubers”, and whose popularity grew by broadcasting via Gamergate, an online “movement of coordinated harassment against women game critics and designers”.

“Since then, [Benjamin] has continued to grow his following with more anti-feminist, anti-social justice content; his main channel now has over 800,000 subscribers, and a secondary channel has an additional 250,000,” Lewis wrote.

Benjamin has appeared on Robertson’s channel multiple times, and Robertson was one of several “influencers” to join in on Benjamin’s debate with Richard Spencer, arguing in favour of Spencer’s ideas of “scientific racism”, Lewis said.

She added: “While in that context, they were presumably on opposite sides of the debate, Benjamin’s multiple guest appearances on Robertson’s channel reveal a friendly working dynamic between the two.

Lewis said in conclusion that YouTube has an “imperative to govern content for explicit values, such as the rejection of content that promotes white supremacy, regardless of whether it includes slurs”.

She continued: “Discussing images of the ‘alt-right’ or white supremacism often conjures a sense of the ‘dark corners of the internet’. In fact, much extremist content is happening front and centre, easily accessible on platforms like YouTube, publicly endorsed by resourced individuals, and interfacing directly with mainstream culture.”

However, in response to Data & Society, Robertson defended his vlogs and told The Ferret: “If left-wingers are concerned about identitarianism gaining ground, then beating us in debate would seem the obvious course of action. Instead, they want to stop the debate.

‘‘This implies they don’t believe they can win it. The more censorious they become, the more desperate they look. Yet this is where the left is today: unable to defend their world-view, and spluttering in disbelief that their opponents are being ‘allowed’ a platform. The sense of arrogant entitlement is disgusting, but not surprising given that the left has been the establishment for many decades now.”

Nik Williams, of Scottish PEN, an organisation promoting freedom of expression, said: “When we depend on online platforms to source information, engage with others and express ourselves, we are at the mercy of a number of opaque systems, such as the algorithms that guide users through different content, and policies that address issues such as political manipulation and hate speech.

‘‘While platforms like YouTube have revolutionised how people can realise their right to free expression, greater transparency and accountability is necessary to ensure that users can make a choice as to what content they view and how they can express themselves free from the influence of those beyond public scrutiny and accountability.”

YouTube did not reply to our request for a comment. The Google-owned video platform recently banned conspiracy outlet InfoWars and its founder Alex Jones for hate speech.

Jones falsely claimed parents of children killed in the Sandy Hook school shooting were “crisis actors” and he promoted the Pizzagate conspiracy theory alleging there was a child-sex slave ring run by Democrats under a Washington, DC pizza shop.

YouTube revoked the channel, writing: “This account has been terminated for violating YouTube’s Community Guidelines. When users violate these policies repeatedly, like our policies against hate speech and harassment or our terms prohibiting circumvention of our enforcement measures, we terminate their accounts.”

Meanwhile, several websites linked to neo-Nazis in Scotland have been taken down. They include Scottish Dawn’s site, a banned terror organisation exposed by The Ferret in 2017. A site promoting System Resistance Network, an openly fascist group recruiting in Scotland, has also disappeared.

According to Hope Not Hate – a UK wide anti-fascist organisation – SRN is run by National Action which was banned under terror laws last year.

After the ban, National Action reinvented itself as Scottish Dawn and started recruiting again north of the border, until an undercover sting by The Ferret caught two of its members on film revealing links to NA. The UK Government banned Scottish Dawn in September 2017.

The Facebook page of Generation Identity Alba/Scotland has also been taken down after the organisation violated the company’s policies.

Generation Identity is part of the Identitarian movement – now spreading across Europe – which started in France and is based around nationalism, and it was using social media to recruit in Scotland last year.

Luke Henderson, of Unite Against Fascism Edinburgh, said: “People think of the “Alt Right” as being an American phenomenon however the one thing everyone knows about the internet is that it shrinks the world so it is no surprise, though still saddening, to find a Scot at the heart of this nasty web.”

“Without the huge platforms they’re offered online, many of those engaged in spreading falsehood and intolerance would struggle to find an audience: that’s where the social media companies have to up their game and accept responsibility what appears on their services. It’s also why those in the alt-right and far-right worlds cry so loudly when they’re banned, and try and falsely co-opt a free speech mantle around their toxic output.”

A YouTube spokesperson said: "YouTube is an open platform where anyone can choose to post videos to a global audience, subject to our Community Guidelines, which we enforce rigorously.

"Additionally, we’ve made updates over the past year to tighten our monetization policies and improve our enforcement against hate speech. Since this research concluded in April 2018, we’ve made more updates to which channels have access to monetization features and deployed advanced machine learning technology to tackle more hate speech in comment features. We continue to expand this work and appreciate input from all researchers."

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