YouTube on Monday banned former Ku Klux Klan leader and prominent white nationalist David Duke from publishing on the platform. Also banned were white nationalist activist Richard Spencer and podcaster Stefan Molyneux.
The YouTube bans came the same day Reddit banned the pro-Trump subreddit R/The_Donald as well as one dedicated to the popular left-wing podcast Chapo Trap House.
YouTube de-platformed the three figures, along with several channels that pushed similar content, after deciding they “egregiously” violated YouTube’s policy against hate speech, the Verge reported.
Then news came as music to the ears of extremist watch dog groups, while right-wing commentators blasted the move as censorship.
Here’s what you need to know:
Duke & Spencer Are Unapologetic White Nationalists Whose Profiles Rose After the Election of President Donald Trump
The Southern Poverty Law Center describes Spencer, 42, as a “suit-and-tie version of the white supremacists of old, a kind of professional racist in khakis.” Spencer is president of anti-immigrant, pro-white think tank the National Policy Institute. He was also a promoter of the 2017 Charlottesville Unite the Right rally that turned violent and claimed the life of young activist Heather Heyer, according to the New York Times.
After Trump’s November 2016 election victory, Spencer led a crowd at a National Policy Institute function in chants of, “Hail Trump,” complete with Nazi salutes.
Duke is a former grand wizard in the Ku Klux Klan, who has been in the public eye for decades, including a successful run for the Louisiana House of Representatives in 1988 and a series of unsuccessful bids for governor and president, SPLC reported.
Duke also appeared at the 2017 Unite the Right rally, implying that its far-right and white nationalist attendees were also strong supporters of President Trump.
“This represents a turning point for the people of this country. We are determined to take our country back, we’re going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump, and that’s what we believed in, that’s why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he’s going to take our country back and that’s what we gotta do,” Duke said, according to a report in the Hill.
Molyneux’s 650K-Subscriber Strong Channel Often Focused on ‘Race Realism’ & Featured Alt-Right Figures
Molyneux is a lower-profile figure than Duke and Spencer, but still boasted a hugely popular channel ostensibly focused on philosophy and free thought. However, Molyneux consistently promoted so-called “race science,” as well as the alt-right, the Guardian reported.
In a 2018 video uploaded to his YouTube channel, Molyneux told his followers that a visit to Poland erased his skepticism about white nationalism. The white monoculture, he said, “is something to be treasured, respected, admired and protected,” Right Wing Watch reported.
Molyneux has more than 650,000 subscribers on YouTube, SPLC reported. SPLC said Molyneux cloaked “the practical implications” of his beliefs in “nonwhite racial inferiority” with his videos.
New York Times reporter Kevin Roose said Molyneux was the “first step down the alt-right rabbit hole for a lot of young men,” including one he profiled in a New York Times feature on YouTube radicalization.
Spencer & Molyneux Were Poised to Appeal Their Bans Monday, With Spencer Calling It a ‘Systemic, Coordinated Effort’
Fans of Spencer and Molyneux quickly lamented the removal of their channels, with one fan tweeting Molyneux was “an absolute saint” who “enlightened me countless of times.” Molyneux asked his fans to hound Youtube over what he called an “egregious error.”
Alt-right commentator Peter Imanuelson called the bans “election interference by big tech.”
Spencer also tweeted that he would appeal the suspension, although he believed it to be part of a “systemic, coordinated effort.”
While right-wing figures online took the news as confirmation of the popular narrative of big tech censoring conservative speech, others rejoiced and said the bans were long overdue.
Spencer and Molyneux’s removal from the platform marked a “good day for Black Lives Matter,” Selena Adera tweeted, adding that Molyneux painted Black people as “subhuman” and “incapable of high intellect.”
YouTube told TechCrunch that the bans came about after a recent update of their guidelines targeting white supremacist content. After the update, “we saw a 5x spike in video removals and have terminated over 25,000 channels for violating our hate speech policies,” the spokesperson said.
Heavy attempted to reach Duke by email, but had not heard back as of Monday evening.