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Deplatforming: Youtube takes the video channel away from Identity boss Sellner (update)

Right-wing activist Martin Sellner had probably imagined his honeymoon differently. When Sellner arrived in Rome, he received the news that one of his YouTube channels with 100,000 subscribers had been blocked. Youtube is currently kicking numerous extreme rights off the platform. In June, the group announced a tougher course against hate speech and renewed this intention with regard to the Christchurch attack.

In June, YouTube not only put Holocaust denial on the list of content to be deleted, but also any form of discrimination or exclusion based on characteristics such as age, gender, race, caste, religion, sexual orientation or veteran status. These changes have now apparently cost Sellner the account, as he spoke of “guilt cult” and “Holocaust myth” in a video, and much of the content is also interspersed with subliminal and disguised racism. The blocking notice from Youtube published by Sellner on his Twitter account, which is still active, indicates that the identity person has “glorified or encouraged violence against individuals or groups”.

Facebook and Instagram deleted earlier

For the Austrian head of the Identity Movement, it is not the first account that he has lost due to a violation of community guidelines: Sellner had previously lost his Facebook account and Instagram account. The payment service provider PayPal and other banks also banned him. Sellner is likely to earn a significant amount of his living from donations, including from the Christchurch assassin, which he also receives due to his visibility on YouTube.

Numerous right-wing and right-wing radical people and media showed solidarity with Sellner on Twitter, and there was also encouragement from the right wing of the CDU such as the WertUnion member Max Otte. You see the deletion of the channel as an act of censorship, Sellner himself speaks of a “digital campaign of destruction”. In addition to Twitter, he used another YouTube account registered in his name for the new communication, which is currently not blocked. Sellner announced that he wanted to take legal action against the deletion.

Sellner and the "Great Exchange"

The Identitarian Movement is one of the most visible representatives of the conspiracy ideology of the “Great Exchange”. Behind this political battle term hides the unsubstantiated theory that certain political forces would work systematically to replace the white majority of the population with "foreign cultures". The conspiracy ideology is based on the racist concept of "Umvolkung". In order to make it easier to convey, the new law no longer uses the word “race”, but speaks of “culture”. Representatives of the AfD, including Alexander Gauland, also use the term.

Right-wing assassins like those in El Paso or Christchurch rely on the ideology of the Great Exchange. The latter was even in direct contact with the identity front man Sellner and donated money to the organization. Research among identities in Great Britain and Northern France showed that the movement is much closer to militant right-wing radicalism and neo-Nazism than it externally admits. The identities are observed by the respective domestic secret service in Austria as well as in Germany.

Deplatforming right-wing extremists

Because of their postings and violations of the terms and conditions, representatives of the radical right are increasingly affected by so-called deplatforming, i.e. the exclusion of their accounts from platforms on the Internet. If such persons or organizations fly off the big platforms like Youtube or Facebook, then their public visibility and occasionally their income are usually reduced.

In some cases there is initially increased attention due to a Streisand effect, but usually only a comparatively few follow the exiles to their new home on smaller or special-interest platforms that are only aimed at a certain political target group. This significantly reduces their reach, as people's media consumption habits do not fundamentally change because of a blocked account.

Critics of the concept of deplatforming say that blocking accounts creates active communities and platforms in which racism and other inhuman ideologies are completely normal.

Great power for social networks

The problem with deplatforming on market-dominant social networks such as YouTube or Facebook is that it is very difficult for those affected to defend themselves legally and that there are no reasonable contradiction and objection mechanisms on the platforms themselves. Anyone who is wrongly excluded from one of the market-dominating networks will lose their entire reach. Deplatforming also gives market-dominant companies great power to decide on the reach and content of people and organizations.

Deplatforming is not only available with social networks, it is also possible with providers or services such as Cloudflare. The latter had recently thrown out the 8chan platform, which is now only accessible via the Tor network. The Nazi publication “The Daily Stormer” had a similar experience, but it can now be accessed again via conventional channels.

Update 8/29/2019:

Youtube has restored the channel. Youtube commented on the case to Buzzfeed.

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About the author

Markus Reuter

Markus Reuter deals with the topics of digital rights, hate speech & censorship, fake news & social bots, right-wing radicals on the internet, video surveillance, basic and civil rights and social movements. At netzpolitik.org since March 2016 as an editor. He can be reached at markus.reuter | ett | netzpolitik.org and on Twitter at @markusreuter_
Published 08/28/2019 at 7:11 PM