Radicals banned from Facebook find outlets on foreign platforms

Images of Mussolini, anti-Semitic insults and swastikas with daggers are being shared on underground social networking sites


Pubblicato il 20/01/2018
Ultima modifica il 20/01/2018 alle ore 07:40

Right-wing radicals expelled from Twitter, Facebook and Google are being embraced on alternative networking sites like Vkontakte and Gab.ai. These platforms allow users to share typical content — death threats; racist and anti-Semitic insults; neo-fascist imagery — that would normally call for site operators to block their accounts. Although these networks have little mass appeal, they’ve gained momentum in Italy following a small election win for the neo-fascist Italian political party, CasaPound, in November 2017. 

 

With over 460 million users, the Russian-based Vkontakte is one of largest alternative social networking sites. Vkontakte was founded in 2006 by Pavel Durov, but bought in 2014 by companies allied with Putin, one of which was Alisher Usmanov, the Russian multi millionaire and owner of the football club Arsenal. It’s users are mostly Ukrainian and Russian, but it’s also attracted the alt-right in Europe and the United States. CasaPound, with its 2288 followers, is the largest Italian political organization present on the platform.  

 

Anti-Semitism is a common trope on sites like VK. The group for “historical revisionism” for instance, publishes posts that deny the Holocaust. Although the community has a small membership — 69 members only — most of them are Italian. And the iconography they use is similar to that of the US neo-Nazi site, Stormfront, which Rome officials have been investigating.  

 

A lesser known networking site is Gab.ai. The Texas-based social networking site was founded in 2016 as an alternative to social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Reddit. It allows its users to read and write “gabs”, which are messages of up to 300 characters. In the last two years, it’s become a hub for the radical US alt-right movement. Their logo is a frog meme — an international symbol of the extreme right.  

 

A few weeks ago, the Italian account “Celeste Bazzoli” was created on Gab. It’s the same account name of the Twitter user who was banned last December: “Twitter bastards blocked me and stole my 2300 followers,” he wrote on Gab. Many other Italian users blocked from Twitter for posting racist, violent or offensive content have switched to the alt-right network. But Gab is also used to exchange tips on how to avoid problems with the larger social networks: “If you’re interested I found a way to go back to Twitter N times even if they suspend you indefinitely,” one Italian user wrote who goes by the name The Jocker. 

 

The platform is also popular among Britain’s radical right. Jayda Fransen, deputy leader of the ultranationalist party Britain First, switched to Gab after Twitter blocked her and her party’s accounts for spreading hate campaigns against refugees and migrants. The Italian Roberto Fiore, founder and president of the Alliance for Peace & Freedom (APF) and Nick Griffin, the deputy chairman, are both present on the platform. Fiore is also the leader of Forza Nuova, the Italian far-right political party. 

 

Finally, there is the right-wing European organization “Generazione Identitaria” which has a presence in Italy, France, Austria, Germany and Great Britain. This sophisticated networking platform actively allows you to search for “peers” through an inbuilt radar function that recognizes members of the organization by scanning a code. It has a list of action items which allows you to acquire points and access restricted functions on the app. The project is still under development but promises “maximum confidentiality and secure servers for all its members.” 

 

*Translated and edited by Talia Abbas  

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