How the Far Right Exploded on Steam and Discord

1/14/2022 4:22:00 PM

New research found that several of the major gaming platforms are hosting extremist activity, from racist livestreams to open support for neo-Nazis.

Wired Uk, Steam

Research published by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), a counter-extremism think tank, has found that several major gaming platforms play host to extremist activity—from racially abusive livestreams to open support for neo-Nazi terrorists.

New research found that several of the major gaming platforms are hosting extremist activity, from racist livestreams to open support for neo-Nazis.

Extremist usage of the platform varies. Some, such as groups linked to political movements such as Generation Identity or Britain First, weren’t found to be posting gamer-specific content; instead, they used Steam as a social media platform, dumping propaganda to attract new recruits. Others, including some tied to neo-Nazi podcasts and forums, were set up explicitly to form gaming clans.

Feminazi: The TriggeringorThe ISD did note, however, that extremists enjoy historical games, such asCrusader KingsCounter-Strike: Global OffensivRedpilling is linked to the practice of “raiding,” often coordinated on Discord servers. "You might have a space where you stockpile gore pics or racist memes or whatever, and you’d have individuals suggesting another server, usually a server associated with political opponents, or what they see as their out groups: so LGBTQ communities, people of color,” says Davey. “Then you would all pile into that server at an agreed time and spam it with hateful activity or hostile activity, and unpleasant memes and unpleasant images.”

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The ISD found a “well established, large network” of far-right communities, some dating back as far as 2016. “The content we encountered on Discord and Steam was more egregious than the content you would expect to easily find on mainstream social media platforms, but at a smaller scale than you would expect find on alt-tech platforms such as Gab and Telegram,” explains Jacob Davey, head of research and policy of far-right and hate movements at the ISD. (Screenshot) SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. “I think Steam in particular is noteworthy because the communities there are several years old, suggesting that the extreme right is well entrenched on the platform. Rather than some kind of bug or limitation, however, the dissonance between the masks’ look from afar and up close is at the heart of the appeal of UnMask, the niche brand behind these and a few more face mask designs.” The investigation found two Steam groups with links to violent terrorist organizations: one to the Nordic Resistance Movement, connected to bombings in Gothenburg in 2016 and 2017, and another to the Misanthropic Division, a Russian group active in Ukraine, Germany, and the UK. Gionet, who also faces unrelated charges over his presence in the U. Extremist usage of the platform varies. McLeod was also active on online forums where he touted masculine supremacy and disdain for the “weak.

Some, such as groups linked to political movements such as Generation Identity or Britain First, weren’t found to be posting gamer-specific content; instead, they used Steam as a social media platform, dumping propaganda to attract new recruits. Capitol during the Jan. UnMask’s materials have outwardly claimed their masks are designed to help prevent the spread of coronavirus—and to comply with masking guidelines and mandates—without sacrificing comfort. Others, including some tied to neo-Nazi podcasts and forums, were set up explicitly to form gaming clans. “[Steam] is essentially acting as a community hub for people who are affiliated with the extreme right to come together, to socialize, to communicate, to have fun with their friends in a relatively safe space, but also to discuss extreme right wing ideology, and some of those points are then being used to off ramp people onto the website of extremist organizations or other social media pages,” says Davey. Police say Gionet made customers uncomfortable when he and friends were inside the bar livestreaming video, refused to leave when asked to do so and got into an argument with an employee who pushed him out of the door, leading Gionet to shoot pepper spray twice. The ISD found that, in general, extremists do not play extremist games. “Face masks, especially when worn for great lengths of time, can substantially reduce airflow, and for some people exacerbates their underlying health issues like asthma,” claims one blog post on the site, without offering evidence. This is primarily because these games are awful. 6 riot, authorities say Gionet livestreamed for about 27 minutes from inside the U. McLeod’s case is an example of the ties between misogyny and easy access to guns that Everytown for Gun Safety highlights in a new report this week , which was shared with HuffPost ahead of its publication.

While users might display an association to a game like Feminazi: The Triggering , this is largely just a badge of honor. "[Games like] Angry Boy 2 or Ethnic Cleansing —no one plays them, they’re barely available," says Pierre Vaux, a research manager with the ISD. Capitol, encouraged other rioters not to leave, profanely called a police officer an “oath breaker” and identified himself as a member of the media when told by police to move. The company says their breathable designs (which they claim without offering evidence offer “up to 95 percent more airflow” than regular masks) can help people mitigate these so-called risks—all while avoiding any hassle from regulators. “They’re crude 16-bit titles that look awful and are badly designed and are probably filled with viruses—no one wants to download them.” The ISD did note, however, that extremists enjoy historical games, such as Hearts of Iron, Europa Universalis, and Crusader Kings . Now, the social media personality known as Baked Alaska has been arrested for storming the U. In these games, extremists live out their fantasies: conquering the world as Hitler, for instance, or exterminating Muslims in the Middle East. (“The last time it was spun, they unleashed the new Omicron variant. Members of the far right typically reject liberalism in all its forms, including protections for women and other marginalized groups.

But the extremist game of choice was Counter-Strike: Global Offensiv e—not for ideological reasons but because it is fun and free. Capitol. “I think the big takeaway is the most obvious one, but I think also the most counterintuitive for people who want to present a nefarious picture of gaming: It’s that when extremists game, they play the same popular games you or I play, and they game largely for the same reason you or I game, because it’s fun and it’s popular,” says Davey. “It’s a great pastime for spending time and building a community with your friends, particularly during Covid. Prosecutors dispute that Gionet is a journalist. 17 with the code “FAKEFAUCI.” While Steam was found to have the worst problem, extremists were gathering on every platform. The live streaming service Twitch, for instance, plays host to “Omegle Redpilling,” where white supremacists—often dressed up in military gear, or as characters such as “Racist Super Mario” or the Joker—search Chatroulette and Omegle for victims to racially abuse. In an unrelated case, Gionet also was charged with misdemeanors for allegedly damaging a Hanukkah display in December 2020 outside the Arizona Capitol. “For groups of radicalized men who see violence as a means to make their rage visible, firearms are easily accessible and impactful tools.

Clips from these streams, some of which stayed up for more than an hour before being blocked, are popular, and have ended up on TikTok; one of these accounts, from the jailed white supremacist Paul Miller, was still up when the ISD last checked. So they advise customers to consider buying their Natural or Ultra designs, as they offer “a more compliant look,” which they explain will help them avoid regulatory scrutiny. Redpilling is linked to the practice of “raiding,” often coordinated on Discord servers. Zachary Thornley, Gionet’s attorney in all three cases, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment late Thursday afternoon. "You might have a space where you stockpile gore pics or racist memes or whatever, and you’d have individuals suggesting another server, usually a server associated with political opponents, or what they see as their out groups: so LGBTQ communities, people of color,” says Davey. “Then you would all pile into that server at an agreed time and spam it with hateful activity or hostile activity, and unpleasant memes and unpleasant images. Sponsored.” In practice, experts say, the company offers the illusion of masking compliance—the ability to work and travel while wearing a face covering that may not comply with the letter or spirit of masking mandates—at the worst possible time.” As is typical of the modern far right, the ISD found that these groups were transnational. “Owning guns and shooting them is a performance of hegemonic masculinity – i.

Another important point to note is that little evidence was found of active recruitment; these were primarily groups of like-minded believers. Worryingly, however, some members were extremely young. It’s like a company selling guns that evade metal detectors. On Discord, in particular, the ISD estimated that the average age was 15, with young people asking to learn more about certain neo-Nazi groups. “We found content being shared by prescribed neo-Nazi organizations groups which are banned in the UK,” says Davey. “It seems like Discord is acting as a hub for these communities of young internet trolls—people who are engaged in raiding, people who are engaged in 8chan or 4chan forum culture—but potentially provides a place for them to come into contact with some of the really the most egregious and actually illegal content out there. “Masks are just for show. Sarah Burd-Sharps, director of research at Everytown for Gun Safety, said the trend is worrying.

” Steam’s particular problem is down to its laissez-faire approach to moderation. These groups were easy to find, with just the most basic keyword searches for racial slurs and Nazi terminology. “On DLive, for example, we noticed several accounts got taken down over the course of our analysis, and similarly we hypothesize that the relatively small size of the communities we found on Discord and Twitch is indicative of proactive, if imperfect, moderation efforts,” says Davey. Advertisement It’s hard to tell how popular UnMask is, or how many people actively use its masks to evade compliance with masking regulations. “On Steam I think the fact that these communities have been active for a number of years is a good indication that they have limited moderation against this sort of harmful activity.” When platforms have cracked down and moderated extreme right discussion, activity has decreased.

DLive initially played host to Patriotic Alternative, a British far-right white nationalist group, which produced chat shows and live streamed games. They come up repeatedly in conversations about how to deal with mask mandates on far-right digital forums. But, during the ISD analysis, DLive began to take action and deleted several accounts. Extremists then moved to alternative platforms where they felt they could reach more users without fear of censor. Steam, famously, enforces only a very loose set of content guidelines. They may also project a false sense of security among their users, and those around them, that could lead some individuals to take pandemic risks they wouldn’t if they were unmasked, or around openly anti- and un-masked individuals. The company may fear inciting another Gamergate by tightening these restrictions, says Davey.

But its moderation policy, he argues, seems out of step with that of other media platforms—and it may soon be forced to act regardless. This story originally appeared on . “This is a fundamental betrayal of the trust of others,” Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a researcher who tracks and responds to pandemic misinformation online, told The Daily Beast.