UPDATE: Oct. 9 — Following the publication of this article, YouTube suspended the account of the individual who posted the Atomwaffen Division video.
A YouTube spokesperson said in a statement that the video was flagged, reviewed and removed because it violated the company’s hate speech policies; noted the video accrued few views; and said that YouTube has removed more than 100,000 videos and 17,000 channels from its site as a result of a hate speech policy that took effect earlier this year.
It took YouTube more than a week to take action against a propaganda video on its site produced by the Atomwaffen Division (AWD) — the neo-Nazi terrorist organization under FBI investigation and linked to five murders in the U.S. — and the poster’s channel remains active.
The clip ― which was uploaded on Sept. 30, reported multiple times since Thursday and finally came down on Tuesday ― featured prominent neo-Nazi and AWD adviser James Mason reading from a script. Before it was removed for hate speech, it garnered hundreds of views, and potentially served as recruitment propaganda for AWD: In a comment, one viewer asked, “whered you get this from? I’m interested,” to which the poster replied with a link to AWD’s website, where visitors can apply to join the group.
It is unclear if the clip’s poster, whose channel is littered with homophobic content and references to AWD, is a member or admirer of AWD. The channel features a still-active pro-AWD video of neo-Nazi skinhead leader Tom Metzger urging viewers to read “Siege,” Mason’s white supremacist polemic. Metzger in the video describes “Siege” as “Mein Kampf of the 21st century.”
YouTube’s failure to remove the video when it was first reported last week, and its decision to let the poster’s channel remain active, demonstrates its inability to police extremist content — proactively or reactively — and the inconsistent enforcement of its policies. The Google-owned tech giant previously banned an AWD-run channel in response to public uproar, but has since been unwilling or unable to keep the group’s content off its platform.
“It’s troubling that YouTube didn’t delete the channel that clearly uploaded an AWD video,” said Joshua Fisher-Birch, a research analyst at the Counter Extremism Project who found and reported the now-removed video. “In the past, YouTube was slow to remove channels that uploaded ISIS videos, even after the videos were deleted.”
Though violence-minded extremists often congregate on the dark web and on fringe networks, YouTube has continued to be a mainstream place where they “can communicate with each other and connect and share materials,” Fisher-Birch added. “This is preventable.”
YouTube, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment, banned supremacist content in June, but such content is still rampant on the site.
The FBI has filed criminal charges against two AWD members in recent weeks, The Daily Beast reported Monday, citing three law enforcement sources. Since forming in the U.S. in 2015, the organization has expanded to Canada and Europe, and has been linked to a number of murders and planned terrorist attacks. Its objectives include overthrowing the federal government, launching a race war and establishing a white ethnostate.