Video sharing turbulence: Alternative platforms hosting hate speech and misinformation


Continued from ‘New breed of video sites thrive on misinformation and hate’

Since 2020, below guidelines enforced by the British Media regulator Ofcom, BitChute should defend the general public from “harmful content”. This implies, primarily, content material that may be deemed a prison offense below legal guidelines referring to terrorism and little one sexual abuse, or content material that incites violence or hatred in opposition to specific teams. Ofcom can impose heavy fines and even droop a platform.

Ofcom and BitChute instructed Reuters that they had consulted with one another on content material to make sure compliance – “while maintaining our free speech guidelines,” added BitChute. However that doesn’t imply BitChute has eliminated all doubtlessly dangerous content material. Ofcom instructed Reuters that the laws don’t require BitChute to proactively police itself; slightly, BitChute solely has to take away content material that somebody – for instance, a consumer or advocacy group – has reported as a violation of its phrases and circumstances. Furthermore, the laws apply solely to BitChute’s movies and to not its consumer feedback.

A Reuters evaluation of BitChute’s British website discovered myriad examples of content material selling hate and violence, together with the movies of white males beating black males and the racial slurs of their remark sections.

Ofcom stated it hadn’t launched any investigations or issued any fines below the 2020 laws in opposition to BitChute or some other firm.

BitChute issued a public report in June on the way it had moderated tens of hundreds of movies. Most had been flagged for copyright points; others promoted terrorism, violent extremism or incited hatred. BitChute stated that, most often, it both eliminated the movies or restricted their distribution in sure nations.

Reuters discovered that some movies blocked by BitChute in Europe stay on BitChute in the US, the place free-speech protections for social Media are particularly sturdy. Along with constitutional protections, Part 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act stipulates that social Media corporations can’t be held legally answerable for the content material that customers publish on their platforms.

The BitChute content material blocked in Britain, however nonetheless freely out there in America, contains swastika-adorned movies that attacked Jews and Blacks, and adoring montages about Adolf Hitler with names comparable to, “We Need You Now – Happy Birthday Mein Fuhrer.”

A lizard person

BitChute’s Online traffic grew 63% in 2021 over the previous year, to 514 million visits, according to Similarweb, the Digital intelligence firm. For comparison, that’s more than double the Online audience of MSNBC.com, the website of the cable news channel known for left-leaning opinion hosts.

But BitChute’s funding model appears fragile. In the December interview, Vahey said he had turned down investors because he refused to compromise on free speech. He said he mostly covered his monthly running costs of US$50,000 (RM223,375) through donations and subscriptions. The site also has some advertising.

BitChute’s closest rival, Odysee, attracted 292 million visits last year. But it has taken a different path to get there.

Odysee grew from a company called LBRY (pronounced “library”), co-founded in 2015 by Jeremy Kauffman, a US tech entrepreneur and radical libertarian who financed LBRY by creating his personal cryptocurrency. The corporate’s different founders didn’t reply to requests for remark.

Kauffman, 37, lives in New Hampshire, the place he’s working a long-shot marketing campaign for the US Senate on the state’s Libertarian Social gathering ticket in November’s midterm elections. His hardline model of the Social gathering’s anti-government philosophy contains abolishing the Federal Reserve, the Inner Income Service and child-labor legal guidelines.

Kauffman promoted his Senate marketing campaign with a weird video posted on Twitter in Might. He addresses the digicam in an ill-fitting crocodile costume and speaks as pictures flash on the display of snarling aliens, Godzilla and President Joe Biden with a forked tongue. “I want to become a lizard person,” Kauffman says. “I wish to rule you.”

The act appeared to reference the lizard-people conspiracy idea, which holds that governing elites are actually blood-sucking alien reptiles in human type.

Kauffman additionally posts provocative statements on Twitter. “Being unvaccinated and being Black are both choices,” he tweeted in August 2021, with a picture of a light-skinned Michael Jackson. He told Reuters the tweet was a joke.

“I feel it’s humorous,” stated Kauffman, the only occupant of LBRY’s plainly furnished headquarters in downtown Manchester, New Hampshire. “If you don’t think it’s funny,” he said, “you don’t have to take a look at it.”

In faculty at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, Kauffman studied laptop science and physics, and performed aggressive frisbee. He had little expertise in publishing when, in 2015, he arrange LBRY with 4 others, promising to convey “freedom back to the web,” according to an early investor pitch.

LBRY’s Business model relied on sales of its own cryptocurrency, called LBC. Launched on the cusp of a crypto boom, the price jumped, pushing the company’s value to $1.2 billion.

But in March 2021, the Securities and Exchange Commission sued LBRY, alleging that selling a cryptocurrency to finance its operations amounted to an unregistered securities offering. Kauffman attacked the commission in tweets and interviews as “monsters,” and instructed Reuters he had spent US$2mil (RM8.93mil) on authorized charges on a “Kafka-esque” fight. The Securities and Exchange Commission declined to comment on the case, which is still pending.

Even before the suit, demand for LBC was faltering. After its 2016 launch, the currency’s value swung up and down, reaching US$1.29 (RM5.78) in early 2018 before collapsing, according to CoinGecko, a website that tracks cryptocurrency values. It now trades at about two cents.

The company started a streaming platform in late 2019 called LBRY.TV. It courted creators who specialized in technology, cryptocurrencies or science, but also attracted conspiracy theorists and extremists seeking an alternative to YouTube. Paul Webb, a web developer who joined LBRY in 2017, said he raised objections when he found out the site featured videos of a leader of the Proud Boys, the far-right group whose current leader and four associates are now charged in connection with the Jan 6 Capitol riot.

On a video call with Kauffman, Webb presented research on the Proud Boys by groups that track extremists. Webb said he argued that “now we have a duty to not give individuals like {that a} platform.” Kauffman disagreed and stated the controversy generated publicity for LBRY, in response to Webb, who now works at a Digital design company based mostly in Canada.

Requested in regards to the alternate, Kauffman stated: “Even morally questionable groups, such as Reuters journalists or the Proud Boys, should be allowed to speak to others that want to hear them.”

LBRY.TV was rebuilt and rebranded as a new website, Odysee, in late 2020. The following year, the operation was put into a new subsidiary of LBRY called Odysee Holdings Inc, with a new chief executive. Kauffman remains the CEO of LBRY, but Odysee is now run by Julian Chandra, both men said in interviews. Chandra had worked at the popular Chinese-owned short-video app TikTok before joining LBRY and taking over Odysee.

He told Reuters he wants to make Odysee a profitable platform that serves a bigger, more mainstream audience, moving beyond Kauffman’s libertarian politics and his original vision for the video-sharing site. Odysee is seeking to grow revenue through advertising and premium ad-free subscriptions.

Odysee’s traffic has grown exponentially. Like BitChute, it has fed off the turbulence surrounding Covid-19 lockdowns, mass vaccinations and Trump’s false claims about the US election in November 2020. That month, Odysee’s visits doubled to about 6 million, according to Similarweb. In January 2021 – the month Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol – it almost tripled again, to 17 million. By August, the total almost doubled again, to 33 million.

Odysee still bills itself as a bulwark for free speech. When YouTube last year removed several videos condemning alleged human rights abuses by China against Uyghur Muslims, Odysee provided an alternative home. It did the same for RT and Sputnik after YouTube and Facebook blocked the Russian propaganda channels in March. In a statement on Twitter, Odysee said: “We’re not banning any information community. It’s a slippery slope.”

It stays a sanctuary for controversial figures. Megan Squire, a professor at Elon College in North Carolina who researches Online extremism, has recognized greater than 100 channels on Odysee from right-wing extremists and conspiracy theorists.

Chandra acknowledged that such content material existed on Odysee however stated it didn’t outline the platform. He stated the corporate removes content material that promotes terrorism, hatred or violence in direction of different teams.

But Odysee stays a house to neo-Nazis. Joseph Jordan, who produces movies below the pseudonym of “Eric Striker,” co-founded the white supremacist National Justice Party. In his videos on Odysee, he praises Hitler, denies the Holocaust happened and argues for policies protecting whites against Blacks. Jordan did not respond to a request for comment.

“You need me to delete this particular person due to what precisely? He hasn’t damaged any legal guidelines,” Chandra stated. “You don’t like a channel, don’t watch the channel. It’s quite simple.” – Reuters

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