On Tuesday, writing for SFGate, Middle East Media Research Institute executive director Steven Stalinksy — who has highlighted the ways that ISIS and other foreign terror cells have exploited the internet to promote their cause — warned that domestic neo-Nazi groups are adopting the same strategy.
That strategy hinges on a famous website known as the Internet Archive.
"In recent years, neo-Nazis, antisemites and other white supremacist and racist groups have been using the San Francisco-based Internet Archive (archive.org) for spreading their propaganda and incitement online," wrote Stalinsky. "The massive online digital library allows them to, in its own words, 'upload movies, audio, texts, software, images, and other formats ... any time you wish' and to freely share the link to the resulting page."
Previous reports have indicated how white supremacist groups thrive on end-to-end encrypted messaging services like Telegram, which are harder for outsiders to intercept. But the Internet Archive is popular among these groups for an entirely different reason.
Unlike social media platforms, noted Stalinsky, the Internet Archive doesn't have a system to flag and take down objectionable content — the entire purpose of the site is to be a repository of anything and everything. So hate speech and calls to violent incitement can be much more easily embedded in the databases. It also requires "neither verification nor credentials" to upload things — just an email address. And it doesn't even have to be your real one.
"A recent two-year study I co-authored reviews the massive amount of content being uploaded, downloaded and shared by these groups on the Internet Archive and how it is used for recruitment and radicalization," wrote Stalinsky. "This includes historical Nazi content such as copies of Der Sturmer, the virulently antisemitic Nazi-era propaganda newspaper, and speeches and writings by Adolph Hitler, Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels and other Nazi figures. This historical material is interspersed with neo-Nazi content, including tens of thousands of pages with titles such as 'Adolf Hitler: The Ultimate Red Pill,' '666 Adolf Hitler Quotes' and 'Joseph Goebbels, Master of Propaganda, Heil Hitler,' and videos and writings by convicted Holocaust deniers."
According to Stalinsky, the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine director, Mark Graham, requested a list of all the neo-Nazi content flagged by the study — but after receiving it, did nothing to remove it and said that there were difficult ethical decisions around maintaining the site.
"Based on my understanding of how the platform is being used, the Internet Archive and its board members should develop a solution for dealing with the glut of hateful content on the platform," concluded Stalinsky. "While its mission is admirable, it cannot be exempted from the scrutiny directed against other popular platforms for their role in enabling the spread of antisemitic, racist and hateful misinformation. The consumption of this content has all-too-real and often deadly consequences — yet the Internet Archive remains a safe haven and allows it to flourish."
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