NBC News reporter Ben Collins covers online radicalism and how social media platforms introduce extremist content to unsuspecting users, and he said tech companies aren’t doing enough about a growing problem.
Collins appeared Friday on MSNBC’s “Live With Stephanie Ruhle” to discuss online extremism after a gunman murdered 49 Muslims at a New Zealand mosque, and the reporter and counterterrorism expert Malcolm Nance said not enough was being done to stop right-wing terrorism.
“There is a fundamental problem in the global counterterrorism world,” Nance said, “in that terrorists, as far as they are concerned, only come in one flavor — Muslim. What this person was, he was an Australian citizen, he was Caucasian, he was a Christian, and he was part of an ultra-right-wing extremist, and part of that right-wing diaspora that were followers of Anders Behring Breivik, the mass murderer of Norway, who shot dead over 80 children a few years ago.”
“They do not watch right-wing extremism and it is now cropping up everywhere,” he added.
Collins said the gunman’s manifesto echoed themes and used language he frequently encounters in right-wing circles online, and he said their white nationalist rhetoric was inherently violent and threatening.
“He was a white nationalist, that’s what he was,” Collins said. “We mean that in the sense that he only wanted white people in his nation, that is what white nationalism means. A lot of people try to defang that word, say it’s not as bad as white supremacist. Well how are you going to get only white people in a nation?”
Collins said he’s tried to warn tech companies about the hateful content they host, and asked them to take action, but he said executives have needlessly turned the issue into a political debate.
“This is the blind spot that (Nance) is talking about,” he said. “This stuff isn’t monitored with the rigor because it’s a political issue, it’s become a political issue for really no reason. These people are committing terrorist acts over and over again, using the same platforms, getting radicalized by these same algorithms.”
“When was the last time you got recommended an ISIS video on YouTube?” Collins added. “Probably never, right? Tech companies can do this, they can stop this, but they made this a political issue that it really isn’t.”
Extremism researchers and journalists (including me) warned the company in emails, on the phone, and to employees’ faces after the last terror attack that the next one would show signs of YouTube radicalization again, but the outcome would be worse. I was literally scoffed at. https://t.co/z0OPqfJJw6
— Ben Collins (@oneunderscore__) March 15, 2019