Instagram Has a White Nationalist ‘Groyper’ Problem

“Groypers,” followers of white nationalist livestreamer Nicholas Fuentes, are all over Instagram, some with thousands of followers.
instagram-groypers-white-nationalists
American far-right and white nationalist political commentator, Nick Fuentes, speaks at anti-vax rally in Hudson Yards in New York City on November 13, 2021. (Rainmaker Photos / MediaPunch / IPX

White Christian nationalist “groypers” are thriving on Instagram, posting memes with racist, anti-semitic, and homophobic tropes while others pose as clean-cut conservatives to lure in new, college-aged recruits. 

In a report shared exclusively with VICE News, Media Matters identified 40 active accounts linked to known “groypers,” the name for the very online acolytes of 24-year-old white nationalist livestreamer Nicholas Fuentes and his organization “America First.” Although Fuentes has been suspended from most mainstream social media platforms, including Instagram, since about 2019, his supporters continue to spread his video clips and posts.

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Some of those accounts belong to well-known far-right influencers and have thousands of followers. Other accounts put out groyper memes—a derivative of the Pepe the Frog meme that was co-opted by the so-called “alt-right”—while communicating racist, anti-semitic or homophobic tropes.

The groyper movement is known for weaponizing irony and euphemism to push out hateful content, which allows them to claim they were “just joking” if someone thinks they’ve gone too far. One post, for example, asks “How White Are You?” accompanied by images of facial features, and a scoring system. Others traffic in anti-semitic conspiracy theories by making covert references to the “money lenders” in “temples.” Another explicitly homophobic post shows pictures of people holding up Pride flags at a recent protest against a drag show in Denton, Texas, and calls them “people who defend pedophiles.” 

The groypers’ presence on Instagram seems to violate content policies articulated by its parent company Meta, which explicitly prohibits “praise, support, and representation of white nationalist and white separatism” on its platforms. 

META did not immediately respond for comment, but one of the biggest challenges faced by content moderators has been far-right extremist groups' resilience and abilities to develop a shared, coded language which they use to signpost their hateful views while also skirting policies banning hate speech. 

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Many of the larger Instagram accounts Media Matters identified as belonging to known groypers appear to cultivate clean “optics” on that particular platform, meaning they often steer clear of overt anti-semitism or racism in favor of euphemisms and dog whistles. It’s a strategy used by many in the groyper movement: By sanitizing their public image, they’re able to gain access to mainstream conservative circles and attract new supporters. 

For example, the Instagram account of 20-year-old groyper Kai Schwemmer, an associate of Fuentes who has 12,000 followers and goes by “Kai Clips,” shows him at conservative student events, working out, or standing in front of banners with phrases like “defend traditional values.” Sometimes he appears wearing a blue baseball cap emblazoned with the slogan “America First,” a quiet signposting of his affiliation with the groyper movement. (Schwemmer did not respond to VICE News’ request for comment). 

On his website, he describes himself as a “Gen Z conservative from Utah,” as well as a “mormon, a strong conservative, and an avid bodybuilder. “Kai stands for freedom, for traditional values and he promotes an energetic, youthful conservatism; he stands against mass immigration and cultural decay,” his website states. 

But on other fringe platforms, such as Telegram or Gab, accounts appearing to belong to Schwemmer are more explicit with their views, reposting homophobic memes and cartoons referencing Hitler, for example. On Sunday, an account under the same name livestreamed playing the video game Red Dead Redemption 2, where the user hunted female characters in the game and gunned them down. The stream was posted with the title “Killing 100 Women in Under 10 Min in RDR2.” Viewers left comments celebrating him “murdering bitches.” “This challenge gives me a newfound respect for mass shooters,” another replied. 

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Media Matters identified at least 18 Instagram accounts belonging to known associates of Fuentes or groypers, in addition to Schwemmer.

While some groyper influencers distance themselves from the movement on Instagram, dozens of smaller, anonymous meme accounts explicitly identify themselves as groypers. Some of those accounts post clips from broadcasts on Cozy.tv, the streaming platform that Fuentes founded in 2021 and touted as being “anti-gay, anti-woman, anti-Black, antisemitic.” 

Many others have used images of rapper Ye or clips from his various anti-semitic outbursts, as a vehicle to promote hate against Jews. Fuentes is working as communications manager on Ye’s 2024 presidential campaign, and increasingly, “#Ye24” has also become a calling card for online groypers. 

Recently, Fuentes recently found himself in the national spotlight after he formed an alliance with disgraced rapper Ye over their shared anti-semitic views. Last month, Fuentes and Ye went on Alex Jones’ Infowars for an hours-long interview, in which the rapper declared “I see good things about Hitler” and complained about people “dissing the Nazis all the time.” 

Despite newly unprecedented levels of scrutiny on Fuentes and his network, Instagram is allowing a profile claiming to be the official account of Cozy.tv to maintain a presence on their platform. That account also advertises merch for Cozy.tv, including plushies featuring its logo, ugly Christmas sweaters, and caps. Fourteen groyper accounts identified by Media Matters linked out Cozy.tv.

Fuentes emerged on the far-right scene back in 2017, when he landed his own show with Right Side Broadcasting Network, a new pro-Trump TV outlet at the time, as a freshman at Boston University, and quickly made a name for himself for his unfiltered, bigoted tirades. He attended the violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville later that year. 

In 2019, he set his sights on pushing white nationalism into the political mainstream, and began aggressively recruiting college students, who became known as groypers, to his mission.

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