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Cristina López G.

Author ››› Cristina López G.
  • On TMZ Live, Kanye West and Candace Owens discuss free thought and call slavery “a choice”

    West called slavery “a choice,” while Owens minimized fatal police brutality, claimed neo-Nazis have “a right to ... not want a statue pulled down,” and called Christine Teigen “the most hateful person” on the internet

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Rapper Kanye West brought along Talking Points USA’s Candace Owens for an hour-long interview on a special edition of TMZ Live. Owens is a far-right commentator who’s frequently appeared on conspiracy theory site Infowars and has made a career out of berating Dreamers -- people protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program -- and other immigrants, as well as dismissing the real dangers of white supremacy.

    During the interview, West told host Charles Latibeaudiere that because slavery lasted 400 years, at some point it had become a choice for those enslaved:

    KANYE WEST: But when you hear about slavery for 400 years. For 400 years? That sounds like a choice. You were there for 400 years and it is all of y'all? It is like we are mentally in prison. I like the word prison because slavery goes too direct to the idea of blacks.

    TMZ’s Van Lathan called out West for his comments and said he had “morphed into something … that’s not real”:

    During the interview, Owens discussed white supremacy with Latibeaudiere and remained consistent to her past dismissals of neo-Nazis as a narrative created by the media. She claimed that the protesters at the white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA, had  “a right to show up and say they do not want a statue [of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee] pulled down”:

    Owens also pushed the debunked right-wing media myth of the “Ferguson Effect,” which claims that cops are scared to do their jobs following Black Lives Matters’ protests, and that that has caused an increase in criminal activity. She went on to dismiss fatal police brutality as one of “the tiny issues” impacting the black community.

    Toward the end of the hour, West accused former President Barack Obama of influencing an ongoing class war by being “so high-class that [he] stopped speaking to the middle and the lower class.” And Owens dismissed the hateful rhetoric among President Donald Trump’s supporters by claiming model Christine Teigen is “the most hateful person” she’s seen on the internet.

  • Infowars expands its anti-globalism crusade to Europe

    Infowars’ new European bureau has praised nativist identitarians and relies on the anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim dispatches of a correspondent who used to spread the "Pizzagate" conspiracy theory

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Infowars is expanding its empire of conspiracy theories and anti-immigrant fearmongering to Europe, launching a site that claims to give audiences “the full details of European news” that “European media outlets leave out … to keep its (sic) European audiences from knowing the truth.” A far-right conspiracy theorist is producing content for Jones' new site.

    In the midst of fearmongering rant about an immigrant “takeover” of Spain during the April 30 broadcast of The Alex Jones Show, Infowars host Alex Jones announced the launch of an Infowars European bureau, which seems to be a one-stop shop for the anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim narratives Jones has branded with the “anti-globalism” euphemism.

    The site started posting content on April 3, and as of this writing, nine out of its 12 pieces push anti-immigrant and/or anti-Muslim narratives. 

    One of the articles praises the construction of a small fence on the Italian/French border, a stunt put together by Defend Europe and Generation Identity activists, a white supremacist "identitarian" movement with ties to far-right YouTube commentators Brittany Pettibone and Lauren Southern. Defend Europe is perhaps best known for its anti-immigrant antics, like a failed attempt to disrupt humanitarian rescue missions looking for stranded refugees in the Mediterranean Sea. Southern, Pettibone, and Pettibone’s boyfriend, Martin Sellner, the “de facto spokesperson” for Generation Identity, were recently banned from entering the United Kingdom for presenting a “serious threat to the fundamental interests of society."

    All of the content on the Infowars Europe site appears to have been penned by “foreign correspondent” Dan Lyman, an American linked to a pro-Trump site that pushed the debunked “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory back in 2016, claiming high-profile Democrats were running a “pedophile syndicate” in a Washington, D.C., pizza restaurant. Inspired by such claims, a shooter entered the pizzeria to self-investigate in December of that year.

    Lyman also pushed the conspiracy theory on Twitter:

    Lyman has also:

    • likened feminists to terrorists:

    • and accused Muslim men of being rapists:

    In 2017, Breitbart announced plans to expand its European content from the U.K. to Germany, France, and Italy. As Breitbart's traffic has recently collapsed following the ouster and excommunication of Steve Bannon, Infowars is evidently setting out to follow in Breitbart's footsteps.

  • Alleged Toronto attacker has confirmed links to misogynistic online communities

    While misogynistic online groups praised the attack and called for an uprising, right-wing conspiracy theorists and prominent far-right trolls blamed Islam and the alleged perpetrator’s ethnicity

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    On April 23, Alek Minassian allegedly drove a van into a crowd of pedestrians in Toronto, Canada, killing 10 and injuring 15. In posts on Facebook that the social media company has confirmed as his, Minassian alluded to online message board 4chan’s women-hating “involuntary celibate” community (whose members call themselves “incels”). The "incel" community, part of the broader "men's rights" community, has cheered the attack, while right-wing conspiracy theorists and far-right trolls have blamed it on Islam.

    In his social media posts, Minassian also used the terms “Chads” and “Stacys,” which are often used by online “incel” communities to mean “attractive popular men who are sexually successful with women” and their female partners.

    In the same post, Minassian praised Elliot Rodger, who went on a killing rampage in Isla Vista, CA, in 2014 that Rodger described in a note as a “Day of Retribution” for his virginity, which he attributed to “the cruelness of women.” The incel community often celebrates and discusses Rodger, and in his post, Minassian wrote, “All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!”

    The “incel” community celebrated Minassian online

    Sites linked to the “incel” community responded to Minassian’s attacks with violent memes, celebratory postings, and called for “More Trucks of Peace,” in apparent reference to the use of heavy vehicles to attack pedestrians. The most popular post had memes calling for a “Beta uprising” saying, “It’s now or never.” In the message thread, one poster complained about not having a “good enough weapon,” to which another member replied, “Get a car you cuck.”

    Far-right figures immediately connected the attack to Islam

    In the aftermath of the attack, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones scrambled to connect the attack to Islam during his live show. In a later video titled “Reporters Face Ten Years In Prison For Covering Islamic Truck Attack In Toronto,” Jones claimed that such truck attacks were “part of radical Islam” and said that the accent of the killer “sounds Islamic, sounds Middle Eastern.”

    Even after learning of the alleged killer’s ties to women-hating groups, Jones continued to link the attack to Islam during his April 24 broadcast, claiming that “he has an Islamic-sounding last name” and that “he’s a foreigner” and attributing the misogynistic aspects of the “incel” movement to Islam.

    Like Jones, prominent far-right internet trolls used the attack to smear Muslims and Islam on Twitter, mirroring conversations taking place on internet message boards Reddit and 4chan.

    Gavin McInnes, founder of the male chauvinist fraternal organization Proud Boys:

    Conspiracy theorist and online troll Laura Loomer:

    Infowars host Paul Joseph Watson:

    Leading anti-Muslim voice Pamela Geller:

    Troll account "Alba_Rising:"

    In a since-deleted Facebook post, the Canadian chapter of McInnes’ Proud Boys chimed in with anti-immigrant sentiments, stating, “The blood may be directly on the hands of the Trudeau regime for this latest terror attack.”

    Anti-Muslim and racist messaging quickly spread

    Fox News’ line of questioning suggested the attack had connections to ISIS. Immediately following a press conference in which authorities explained that the identity and motives of the attacker were still unknown, guest Howard Safir and host Maria Bartiromo discussed strategies to combat ISIS, suggesting to audiences a motive and connection that had not been confirmed by authorities.

    A Reddit thread connected the attack to Islam: “It's such a sad thing that civilized western nations are allowing this to happen. There's a reason why Islamic nations are in a constant state of tyranny or chaos”:

    A 4chan thread linked the tragedy to the QAnon conspiracy theory: A thread in the “politically incorrect” 4chan message board connected the attack to the Alex Jones-endorsed far-right conspiracy theory known as “The Storm” or QAnon. The conspiracy theory posits that President Donald Trump has a master plan to kneecap members of the “deep state” and that an intelligence officer with the highest clearance level is keeping people informed by posting anonymous messages and signing them as “Q.”

    4chan users called the attack “a government orchestrated false flag.”

    On YouTube, the channel ThePureVeritas claimed that the attacker was a “MUSLIM man.” The video is still up and has over 9,000 views.

    Hyperpartisan website Conservative Daily Post  also blamed Muslim immigrants for the attack:

    “While police have yet to reveal the motive behind the attack, the timing of the incident coupled with the cultural shift in Canada raises serious questions. … It also comes as Canada has become a hotbed for radical Islamic terrorism. Canada has not only allowed tens of thousands of Muslim migrants to assimilate to the nation, there has also been a dramatic uptick in crime against civilians. … [Trudeau’s] allowing Sharia Law to overtake Canada, and now innocent civilians aren’t even safe to walk down the street any longer.”

    Natalie Martinez and Alex Kaplan contributed research to this piece.

  • What to know about Scott Adams and Candace Owens, the right-wing commentators Kanye West promoted

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Rapper Kanye West promoted two pro-President Donald Trump figures in the span of a few days. On April 21, West praised Candace Owens, a far-right YouTuber who, among other things, has called for all Dreamers, people protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, to “be sent home.”

    And on April 23, West tweeted out in nine parts a Periscope session by Scott Adams, Dilbert comic strip creator and prominent Trump supporter, during which Adams praised West for “alter[ing] reality.”

    The far-right MAGA internet erupted in cheers, taking the tweets as evidence of West’s definitive “red pilling,” a term that far-right trolls co-opted from the movie The Matrix and that refers to “seeing things as they really are.” (The MAGA trolls popularized the term during the 2016 election cycle to refer to adopting the sort of contrarianism that denies the benefits of feminism and refuses to acknowledge the need for social justice.)

    It is unclear to what extent West aligns with these pro-Trump personalities. But it is undeniable that his endorsement elevated the profiles of these two figures who have espoused toxic positions.

    Candace Owens

    Owens built an online presence on Twitter and YouTube (where she used to go by “Red Pill Black”) through her commentary on race and politics. However, what launched her to prominence among MAGA trolls was a video she posted after the white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, VA, last summer in which she dismissed white supremacy as a narrative created by the media, minimizing the extremism displayed at the rally and the violent death of a woman who was protesting the white nationalists. It earned her an invitation on Infowars, Alex Jones’ conspiracy theory outlet, where she talked with Paul Joseph Watson and Jones about the myth of “black-on-black” crime and likened Black Lives Matter protesters to animals:

    Owens was then appointed urban engagement director for Turning Points USA, which actively fundraises off of fearmongering about “nuttiness on college campuses” on Fox News. She has called for all Dreamers to be sent home: 

    Owens has used her growing platform to push various debunked myths, such as the idea that undocumented immigrants are voting illegally or that immigrants “have been directly harming the black community” by taking their jobs, a talking point espoused by an anti-immigrant “hate group” for which Vox says “the receipts simply don’t exist.”

    Mirroring her dismissal of white supremacy, Owens has also been equally blasé about the statistical evidence that shows racial disparities in the way police uses force against Americans. She has claimed, “Police brutality is not an issue that is facing the black community whatsoever.” She has also argued that Trump “represents the very first opportunity for black Americans to jump off of this ideological slave ship that is the Democratic Party.” And despite “freaking out” about West tweeting that he “loves the way” she “thinks,” Owens once claimed in a video directed at celebrities that “we do not care, not in the slightest particle of an imaginary thing, what you think.” On her first Infowars appearance, Owens also praised West for being “awake,” “never subscrib[ing] to any type of politics,” and “slaying this idea of groupthink.”    

    Scott Adams

    Scott Adams, known for creating the Dilbert comic strip, is a prolific Periscope user (with 100 broadcasts so far) who rose to prominence among MAGA trolls because of his prediction that Trump could win the 2016 election. Adams reacted to the news about West’s tweet by doing a Periscope session full of his usual pseudo-intellectual arguments, claiming that history never repeats itself and that West “ripped a hole in reality” with his tweet about Owens:

    While many pro-Trump commentators lavish praise on the president, Adams’s commentary stands apart. Salon’s Amanda Marcotte rounded up some of the things Adams has said about Trump:

    • "If you understand persuasion, Trump is pitch-perfect most of the time. "

    • "The Master Persuader will warp reality until he gets what he wants...."

    • "A lot of the things that the media were reporting as sort of random insults and bluster and just Trump being Trump, looked to me like a lot of deep technique that I recognized from the fields of hypnosis and persuasion."

    • "Trump has the best persuasion skills I have ever seen."

    • "You see apple pie and flags and eagles coming out of his ass when he talks."

    In January, after rapper Jay-Z criticized Trump for reportedly questioning why America should take in immigrants from "shithole countries," Adams wrote a pro-Trump rap verse and called on his followers to record videos of them rapping the lyrics.

    In his foray into MAGA politics, the comic illustrator has made waves by issuing tone-deaf commentary on feminism. He once compared women to children on a blog post he deleted after getting backlash -- but not before claiming that readers offended by his misogynistic rant lacked reading comprehension and were too emotional to understand it:

    That's the reason the original blog was pulled down. All writing is designed for specific readers. This piece was designed for regular readers of The Scott Adams blog. That group has an unusually high reading comprehension level.

    In this case, the content of the piece inspires so much emotion in some readers that they literally can't understand it. The same would be true if the topic were about gun ownership or a dozen other topics. As emotion increases, reading comprehension decreases. This would be true of anyone, but regular readers of the Dilbert blog are pretty far along the bell curve toward rational thought, and relatively immune to emotional distortion.

    Adams has also argued that rape and other sexual offenses can be attributed to men’s “natural instincts”:

    Powerful men have been behaving badly, e.g. tweeting, raping, cheating, and being offensive to just about everyone in the entire world. The current view of such things is that the men are to blame for their own bad behavior. That seems right. Obviously we shouldn't blame the victims. I think we all agree on that point. Blame and shame are society's tools for keeping things under control.

    The part that interests me is that society is organized in such a way that the natural instincts of men are shameful and criminal while the natural instincts of women are mostly legal and acceptable. In other words, men are born as round pegs in a society full of square holes. Whose fault is that? Do you blame the baby who didn't ask to be born male? Or do you blame the society that brought him into the world, all round-pegged and turgid, and said, "Here's your square hole"?

    BuzzFeed’s Ryan Broderick summarized some of Adams' misogyny:

    Adams is also an outspoken men's rights activist. "The reality is that women are treated differently by society for exactly the same reason that children and the mentally handicapped are treated differently. It’s just easier this way for everyone," he wrote in another blog post.

    When asked about his blog post, he wrote on the site Feministe that women were compromised by their emotions and couldn't understand what he was trying to say.

    Adams has written extensively about the "the global gender war.” In a 2015 blog post, Adams wrote that we live in a matriarchal society we believe is actually a patriarchy, said sex is “strictly controlled by women” and argued that lack of sex drives teen boys to violence. He’s also written about how he believes the 2016 Democratic National Convention lowered men’s testosterone levels.

    Adams has tweeted that the real effect of the #MeToo movement was that managers would hire fewer women because of perceived legal risk. He’s claimed that he could persuade his readers to have an orgasm with his blog post.

    His blog is also very popular in both pickup artist and men’s rights communities. In a post from 2016 on the “humiliation of men,” he writes, “Many of you can’t talk about this topic without being accused of sexism, losing your jobs, and being cast out of your social groups. But I can talk about it because I endorse Hillary Clinton for president. I did that for my personal safety, because I live in California, but still, I’m on the progressive side now. That gives me some extra freedom of speech.”

    Adams has also claimed that police shootings and racist incidents were former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s “doings to win the election.”

    Adams has catered to conspiratorial far-right groups by appearing multiple times on Infowars, where he excused Trump calling El Salvador and Haiti, among others, “shithole countries” by blaming the aides who leaked the comments and the journalist who wrote them up. Adams has also declared himself a believer of the conspiracy theory that Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich's death was linked to the email hacking of the committee.

  • Lack of diversity is at the core of social media's harassment problem

    Right-wing figures and far-right trolls mocked questions to Facebook's Zuckerberg about diversity. But it's crucial to understanding how platforms enable harassment.

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    This week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was questioned on racial diversity within his company as he appeared before House and Senate committees to address Facebook’s handling of user data. Facebook -- and more generally, the tech industry -- has often been criticized for its lack of diversity, an issue that, as members of Congress pointed out, can hinder the platform’s ability to respond to discrimination against African-American users and fake news.

    Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY) discussed the relationship between Facebook’s fake news problem and lack of diversity within the company itself:

    Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) asked Zuckerberg about racial discrimination enabled by Facebook and indicated a "growing distrust ... about Facebook's sense of urgency” in addressing such discrimination:

    Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) questioned Zuckerberg on Facebook’s lack of diversity:

    REP. G.K. BUTTERFIELD (D-NC): You and your team certainly know how I feel about racial diversity in corporate America, and [Facebook Chief Operating Officer] Sheryl Sandberg and I talk about that all of the time. Let me ask you this, and the Congressional Black Caucus has been very focused on holding your industry accountable -- not just Facebook, your industry -- accountable for increasing African-American inclusion at all levels of the industry. And I know you have a number of diversity initiatives. In 2017, you’ve increased your black representation from 2 to 3 percent. While this is a small increase, it's better than none. And this does not nearly meet the definition of building a racially diverse community. CEO leadership -- and I have found this to be absolutely true -- CEO leadership on issues of diversity is the only way that the technology industry will change. So, will you commit, sir, to convene, personally convene a meeting of CEOs in your sectors -- many of them, all of them perhaps, are your friends -- and to do this very quickly to develop a strategy to increase racial diversity in the technology industry?

    MARK ZUCKERBERG: Congressman, I think that that's a good idea and we should follow up on it. From the conversations that I have with my fellow leaders in the tech industry, I know that this is something that we all understand, that the whole industry is behind on, and Facebook is certainly a big part of that issue. We care about this not just from the justice angle, but because we know that having diverse viewpoints is what will help us serve our community better, which is ultimately what we're here to do. And I think we know that the industry is behind on this.

    Right-wing media figures and far-right trolls scoffed at the idea of questioning the tech industry’s lack of diversity

    Right-wing figures and far-right trolls scoffed at these questions on different social media platforms -- including Gab, an alternative to Twitter that has been called a "haven for white nationalists" and has on occasion served as a platform to coordinate online harassment -- dismissing them as “insane” and describing efforts to increase racial diversity as discrimination “against white people.” 

    But experts have criticized Facebook and other platforms for the lack of racial diversity within their ranks and explained that diversity is at the core of social media’s harassment problems

    Members of Congress were not alone in their concern that Facebook’s racial homogeneity might diminish its capacity to create a safe environment for every user and protect user data. Bärí A. Williams, formerly a senior commercial attorney at Facebook, explained that racial diversity specifically would improve the platform’s ability to respond to data breaches, “fill blind spots,” and improve “cultural competency” through “lived experience.”

    While Zuckerberg announced Facebook’s intention to rely on Artificial Intelligence (AI) to adress many of the social network’s shortcomings, Molly Wood, host of the Marketplace Tech radio show, pointed out that AI is not a substitute for a racially inclusive workforce:

    A lack of racial diversity in companies’ ranks is at the core of the harassment problem on their social media platforms, as online harassment disproportionately targets minorities of color. According to Pew, “harassment is often focused on personal or physical characteristics; political views, gender, physical appearance and race are among the most common,” with African-Americans experiencing more harassment because of their ethnicity than other groups, and women experiencing more harassment than men:

    Some 14% of U.S. adults say they have ever been harassed online specifically because of their political views, while roughly one-in-ten have been targeted due to their physical appearance (9%), race (8%) or gender (8%). Somewhat smaller shares have been targeted for other reasons, such as their religion (5%) or sexual orientation (3%).

    Certain groups are more likely than others to experience this sort of trait-based harassment. For instance, one-in-four blacks say they have been targeted with harassment online because of their race or ethnicity, as have one-in-ten Hispanics. The share among whites is lower (3%). Similarly, women are about twice as likely as men to say they have been targeted as a result of their gender (11% vs. 5%)

    During a conversation with Wired about how Silicon Valley can address harassment in social media platforms, Black Lives Matter’s Chinyere Tutashinda talked about her experiences online as a black social activist, confirming Pew’s findings by remarking on the ways that people of color are targeted disproportionately online:

    CHINYERE TUTASHINDA: I work within the social justice movement, and there’s no one, especially in the black community, who doesn’t expect harassment online. It’s just replicating what happens in the real world, right? How do we make other people know and care?

    [...]

    There is a lack of diversity in who’s creating platforms and tools. Too often it’s not about people, it’s about how to take this tool and make the most money off it. As long as people are using it, it doesn’t matter how they’re using it. There’s still profit to earn from it. So until those cultures really shift in the companies themselves, it’s really difficult to be able to have structures that are combating harassment.

    [...]

    Diversity plays a huge role in shifting the culture of organizations and companies. Outside of that, being able to broaden the story helps. There has been a lot of media on cyberbullying, for example, and how horrible it is for young people. And now there are whole curricula in elementary and high schools. There’s been a huge campaign around it, and the culture is shifting. The same needs to happen when it comes to harassment. Not just about young people but about the ways in which people of color are treated.

    Experts have weighed in on the specific implications of social media platforms lacking racial diversity among their ranks. As Alice Marwick, a fellow for the Data & Society Research Institute, pointed out on Quartz,“the people who build social technologies are primarily white and Asian men” and because “white, male technologists don’t feel vulnerable to harassment” in the same way that minorities or people of color do, they often fail to incorporate protections against online abuse in their digital designs.

    To illustrate Marwick’s point, take Twitter’s mute button, a feature that can filter unwanted content from users' timelines, making it easier for users to avoid abusive content directed at them. As Leslie Miley -- a black former engineering manager at Twitter who left the company specifically because of how it was addressing diversity issues -- told The Nation, the feature wasn’t perfected until a diverse group of people worked together to fix it:

    [Leslie] Miley was a part of a diverse team at Twitter that he says proves his point. His first project as the engineering manager was to fix Twitter’s “mute” option, a feature that allows users to filter from their timelines unwanted tweets, such as the kind of harassment and personal attacks that many prominent women have experienced on the platform.

    “Twitter released a version in the past that did not go over well. They were so badly received by critics and the public that they had to be rolled back. No one wanted to touch the project,” says Miley. So he pulled together a team from across the organization, including women and people of color. “Who better to build the feature than people who often experience abuse online?” he asks. The result was a new “mute” option that was roundly praised as a major step by Twitter to address bullying and abuse.

    The blind spots caused by racial homogeneity might also delay platforms’ responses to rampant harassment. As documented by Model View Culture magazine, far-right troll and white nationalist sympathizer Milo Yiannopoulos was allowed to rampantly harass users for years on Twitter before getting permanently banned for his “sustained racist and sexist” harassment of African-American comedian Leslie Jones. As Model View Culture points out, racial diversity could be extremely helpful in addressing the challenge social media platforms face in content moderation:

    From start to finish of the moderation pipeline, the lack of input from people who have real, lived experience with dealing with these issues shows. Policy creators likely aren’t aware of the many, subtle ways that oppressive groups use the vague wording of the TOS to silence marginalized voices. Not having a background in dealing with that sort of harassment, they simply don’t have the tools to identify these issues before they arise.

    The simple solution is adding diversity to staff. This means more than just one or two people from marginalized groups; the representation that would need to be present to make a real change is far larger than what exists in the population. Diversity needs to be closer to 50% of the staff in charge of policy creation and moderation to ensure that they are actually given equal time at the table and their voices aren’t overshadowed by the overwhelming majority. Diversity and context must also be considered in outsourcing moderation. The end moderation team, when it comes to social issues specific to location, context and identity, needs to have the background and lived experience to process those reports.

    To get better, platforms must also address how user-generated reports are often weaponized against people of color. Although there’s nothing that can be done about the sheer numbers of majority-White users on platforms, better, clearer policy that helps them question their own bias would likely stop many reports from being generated in the first place. It may also help to implement more controls that would stop targeted mass-reporting of pages and communities by and for marginalized people.

    Ultimately, acknowledging these issues in the moderation pipeline is the first step to correcting them. Social media platforms must step away from the idea that they are inherently “fair,” and accept that their idea of “fairness” in interaction is skewed simply by virtue of being born of a culture steeped in White Supremacy and patriarchy.

  • Far-right trolls launch harassment campaign against judge who upheld assault weapons regulations

    On harassment-enabling sites 8chan and Gab, pro-gun trolls publish Judge William Young's information to "show him what we got"

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Far-right trolls are using harassment-enabling platforms like 8chan and Gab to encourage threats against a federal judge for recently upholding a Massachusetts ban on assault weapons. The trolls published what appears to be Young’s home address and phone numbers and claimed that Young had signed his “death certificate” by ruling to uphold existing gun laws.

    On Friday, U.S. District Judge William Young issued a decision upholding Massachusetts’ ban on assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines, declaring -- in line with other federal courts -- that they are not protected under the Second Amendment. Pro-gun trolls took to online message board 8chan and social media platform Gab to doxx Young, posting without his consent what they claim is the judge’s personal contact information, in clear efforts to target him for harassment. The 8chan post showing the judge’s information invited trolls to “show him what we got”:

    On Gab, the same contact information appeared under search results for Young’s name:

    Anonymity and lack of oversight on online message boards 4chan and 8chan have long made these sites enablers of illegal activity and ideal places for trolls to coordinate harassment campaigns. Gab, a Twitter alternative that has become a “haven for white supremacists” and allows users to regularly post extremist content with no consequence, has clearly become another enabler of harassment. Despite Gab CEO Andrew Torba recently announcing that the site had banned “alt-right” congressional candidate Paul Nehlen for doxxing a white nationalist online troll by supposedly revealing his true identity, Gab's community guidelines appear to extend the courtesy of protecting private information only to other Gab users. This policy makes the site, similar to 8chan, an ideal hub for white supremacists, anti-Muslim extremists, and now, pro-gun trolls, to coordinate the harassment of their political opponents.

    Dina Radtke contributed research for this piece.

  • Tucker Carlson spent Women's History Month parroting YouTube's most extreme misogynists

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN KERR & CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    On his Fox News show, Tucker Carlson spent Women’s History Month parroting some of the grossest views of YouTube’s fringe right-wing anti-feminists in a series of segments about “Men in America,” mainstreaming their misogyny on prime-time cable news. Here’s some background on the men Carlson has been promoting:

    • Jordan B. Peterson: An “obscure Canadian academic” before he became popular on right-wing YouTube, Peterson insists “gender and class hierarchies are ordained by nature,” as The New York Review of Books put it; considers advocates for social justice “morons”; and has speculated that “feminists avoid criticizing Islam because they unconsciously long for masculine dominance.” His YouTube videos have been described as a gateway into the “alt-right” for men suffering from depression, and he has called Nazi sympathizer and infamous anti-feminist Milo Yiannopoulos “unstoppable” and “an amazing person.”

    • Stefan Molyneux: This YouTuber built his reputation by bemoaning feminism and complaining about the plight of men. He has asserted that young women should “look for security” from husbands, suggesting feminism destroyed Europe, and strongly championed James Damore, the Google employee who was fired after writing a memo contending that women’s underrepresentation in the technology field is due to biological reasons. To round out his extremism, Molyneux also traffics in white supremacist tropes like false narratives about the decline of white people, considers himself a “race realist” (euphemism for white supremacy) and has invited “‘alt-right’ extremists” on his show.

    • Gavin McInnes: Founder of the self-described “Western chauvinist” male fraternal organization Proud Boys, McInnes uses his online platforms to spew hateful vitriol. (Designated a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Proud Boys are specifically anti-women, as they embrace the belief that women’s primary role in society is to “stay home and make more babies” and explicitly ban women from their meetings.) He has called Oprah Winfrey a "slut" with a "ghetto mentality" who "was turning tricks" before becoming rich, described lesbians as “sexless, depressed old chubby dykes,” asserted that women should “probably not vote,” mocked women in the workforce, and made derisive comments about women’s looks.

    • Paul Joseph Watson: This Alex Jones lackey spends his time on the internet trolling feminists and Islam, mansplaining “things feminists need to understand,” and pushing nonsensical conceptions of masculinity -- like the idea that soy consumption drives testosterone levels down and reduces masculinity in men.​

    • Owen Shroyer: Also a Jones lackey, Shroyer hosts his own show on Infowars and has spewed the most asinine conspiracy theories, like claiming that Hitler is alive and the U.S. government is covering it up, or that London Mayor Sadiq Khan was somehow involved in the Austin, TX, bombings. As reported by Right Wing Watch, Shroyer also once asserted that former first lady Michelle Obama was a transgender woman with intentions of establishing a mainstream “demonic” culture in America.

  • Fox News article on Stormy Daniels cites known white supremacist as a legal expert

    Fox went to Kyle Bristow, formerly an attorney for the “alt-right,” for his legal expertise

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Fox News is helping white supremacist Kyle Bristow rehabilitate his white nationalist past by citing him for legal expertise without disclosing Bristow’s racist views, his active role in institutionalizing the “alt-right,” or his recent legal representation of white nationalist Richard Spencer. Bristow’s extremist background should have been clear to the network, as a February Fox story named him as Spencer’s attorney.

    In a March 26 FoxNews.com story claiming Stormy Daniels’ lawyer could have implicated himself and his client in a potential crime, Fox included Bristow among the legal experts the network contacted for commentary. Bristow later bragged about his quotes on his Facebook page. From the FoxNews.com report:

    As recently as early March, Bristow was not only Richard Spencer's attorney, but also an important actor developing institutions for the “alt-right.” During an earlier guest appearance on the white nationalist propaganda outlet Red Ice TV, he talked about the organization he had founded, the Foundation for the Marketplace of Ideas (FMI), which he called “our” -- referring to the “alt-right” -- “own version of the ACLU.” As reported by the blog Angry White Men, Bristow intended to use FMI to force universities to host white nationalists and allow them to spread their racist ideas via public speaking events.

    Bristow’s history of extremism also includes publishing a novel the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) described as “seething with lethal white supremacist revenge fantasies against Jewish professors, Latino and American Indian activists and staffers of a group clearly modeled on the SPLC,” and which his ex-wife called “his personal manifesto.” His second book got an endorsement from prominent white nationalist Jared Taylor. Bristow also represented both Spencer and Cameron Padgett, the prominent white nationalist's “booking agent and legal advocate,” in multiple lawsuits against universities, claiming Spencer’s right to free speech was being violated when public universities -- citing security costs -- made it difficult for him to spread his extremism on campus. Bristow's ideological extremism led The Daily Beast’s Mark Potok to describe him as “a hardline racist.”

    A day before he was supposed to host a white nationalist-themed conference in Detroit, MI, this month, Bristow announced he was “dropping out of politics” and giving up his position at the helm of FMI. He blamed recent media coverage for his decision, complaining about “recent relentless and unjustifiable vilification” and explaining, “In recent weeks, journalists have published horrifically disparaging articles about me which contain acerbic, offensive, juvenile and regrettable statements I mostly made over a decade ago.” He didn't clarify whether he would still represent Spencer, but the two seemed to remain on good terms, with Spencer referring to Bristow warmly in a March 3 Periscope recording and telling Newsweek the two were “in touch.” Shortly after Bristow’s resignation, his Twitter account -- which used to house his incendiary commentary -- and his foundation’s online presence were scrubbed from the internet.

    Fox News has previously, if indirectly, acknowledged Bristow's connections to the “alt-right,” as a February 11 story covering Spencer and threats he made about suing Kent State University cited Bristow as Spencer's lawyer:

    Either Fox is willingly aiding this white supremacist in scrubbing his “alt-right” extremist past or, at best, the network is inept at vetting the people it goes to for expertise. Neither is a good look.

  • John Bolton, Trump’s pick for national security adviser, has a record of warmongering, bigotry, and pushing conspiracy theories

    ››› ››› MADELINE PELTZ & CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    John Bolton, a Fox News contributor, is reportedly under consideration to replace National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, likely because President Donald Trump enjoys his television commentary. Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations whose tenure was marred by “his inability to make friends and build alliances,” is a Trump sycophant with a history of warmongering and conspiracy theorizing. He also chairs a think tank that’s been called “anti-Muslim,” and he has connections to anti-Muslim bigots.

  • Tucker Carlson promotes another social media platform full of bigotry

    First it was an app called a “haven for white nationalists,” now it’s a social media network with content even Google’s AdSense is trying to avoid

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Last night on his Fox News show, Tucker Carlson hosted Bill Ottman, co-founder of a social media network you might have not heard of -- Minds.com. Carlson helped Ottman push the right-wing narrative that tech companies are censoring “free speech,” without noting the racist, anti-Semitic, and misogynistic content found on Ottman’s site. From the February 21 edition of Fox’s Tonight with Tucker Carlson:

    Carlson opened the segment declaring that tech companies are “a far bigger threat to your civil liberties than the federal government ever was.” He asked Ottman how Google is “trying to censor” his site, Minds, which purports to be a “community-owned social networking platform that rewards” users for their “activity online with revenue and more views.” In response, Ottman asserted that Google had banned his company from its AdSense advertising platform and blamed its “out-of-control algorithms which basically blanket ban companies based on certain keywords with no real rationality.” When Carlson asked Ottman for reasons the site would have been banned, Ottman deflected, saying, “Probably some keyword that got caught up in their algorithms. But it's actually a symptom of a bigger problem of censorship.” Carlson failed to push back on Ottman’s vague answer and inform his audience about the hateful content found on Minds.com.

    Ottman also claimed his company was building its own ad network to “battle” Google’s policies. Google has been under pressure to do more to weed out hateful rhetoric from its platform, with companies growing increasingly reticent to display their advertisements next to “toxic content.”  (It has continued to fall short in its efforts, as evidenced by white supremacist content that still gets monetized on Google platforms.) Yet, both Carlson and Ottman failed to explain how the anti-Semitic posts or content offensive to women found on Minds would entice any brands to advertise on the platform.

    Here is a sample of the types of content found at Minds.com:

    Holocaust denial:

    Celebrating swastikas:

    Hijacking the #meToo movement with racist memes:

    Anti-Semitism:

    Pushing the misogynist "shit test":

    Sharing misogynist videos in support of Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW):​

    Besides being reluctant to condemn white supremacists, Carlson has a record of using his show to promote the dregs of the internet and stand up for white supremacist speech.​