YouTube’s attempts to stay apolitical has kept it tied up in knots, focusing decisions on small technicalities
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.
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.