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White Supremacists Recruit Youth Via Video Games, Social Media

They arrived in yellow rental trucks, unfurled flags, and readied shields and smoke bombs. Close to midnight on July 3, about 200 members of the white nationalist group Patriot Front marched through downtown Philadelphia, past Independence Hall and other historic landmarks, chanting, “Take America back!” They retreated into their Penske trucks and were stopped by Philadelphia police. Social media and gaming platforms have proved to be fertile ground for white supremacist and conspiracy-theory movements trying to attract new members, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Patriot Front turned footage of its parade city into a hype video; on its website, its members likened themselves to Revolutionary War heroes, and insisted, “Americans must dictate America." More than 8,000 hate crimes were reported in the U.S. in 2020, the most in more than a decade. In Philadelphia, 63 people were reported as hate crime victims, a large increase from 15 in 2019.

White supremacists are using online video-game communities and streaming platforms to recruit teenagers and middle schoolers. Some entreaties start with jokes, or by introducing white supremacist phrases to pique a child’s interest; others share links to material that lure young gamers deeper. “They hear people talk about the superiority of the white race, and the desire of a white homeland,” said Daniel Kelley of the Anti-Defamation League's Center for Technology and Society. After the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, Facebook and Twitter banned the accounts of former President Trump, and thousands affiliated with far-right extremists, white nationalists, and the conspiracy movement QAnon. Facebook faced congressional scrutiny when a whistle-blower accused the company of allowing misinformation to spread. Kelley said there’s little oversight of online gaming ecosystems, or “gaming adjacent” platforms like Twitch, Steam, and Discord, with some companies flatly opposed to content moderation. Instead, they’ve become environments where hate speech “can be normalized in a dangerous way.”


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