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YouTube Bans Channel of American Neo-Nazi Extremist Group Atomwaffen Division

YouTube's removal only comes after a media flurry around the platform's inaction on neo-Nazi content.

Joseph Cox

Joseph Cox

YouTube has banned a channel belonging to Atomwaffen Division, an American neo-Nazi group that has been linked to several murders, for violating the platform’s hate speech policies.

The action was not swift, however: the ban comes days after a flurry of media attention on Atomwaffen and YouTube’s inaction around the group, and on Tuesday the Anti-Defamation League asked YouTube to remove offending videos immediately.

“This account has been terminated due to multiple or severe violations of YouTube's policy prohibiting hate speech,” a banner on an Atomwaffen YouTube channel reads as of Wednesday. All of the account's videos have been removed; it was previously hosting around a dozen propaganda and other videos. The videos had been online since between June and October last year.

Atomwaffen hit the news recently when ProPublica published an extensive, inside look at the extremist group last Friday, based in part on chat logs from an Atomwaffen Discord room. Here, people in the group joked and celebrated the murder of a gay, Jewish college student by an Atomwaffen member.

Despite Atomwaffen’s explicit calls for violence—including phrases such as “Gas the K**kes, Race War Now”—in the wake of that report YouTube refused to remove the group’s videos or ban its channel. At one point, videos on the channel were instead marked as offensive, which limits certain YouTube features such as sharing and commenting.

For campaigners, that wasn’t enough, though.

"These videos are not only disgusting racist content that has no place in our society, but they incite hatred against one religious group—in this case, Jews—therefore violating YouTube’s own Community Guidelines. YouTube should take them down immediately,” Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt told Motherboard on Tuesday.

Cleary, something between the time of that statement and Wednesday shifted in YouTube headquarters. YouTube declined our request to comment.

This removal of Atomwaffen is just the latest episode in tech and communication platforms continuing to battle with far right, white nationalist, and Neo-Nazi content on their services. In August, internet infrastructure company CloudFlare took the unusual step of kicking far right website The Daily Stormer as a customer.