After seeing YouTube's new guidelines on "extremist videos," one far-right outlet is asking its audience to give them hundreds of thousands of dollars so they can build a "conservative alternative."
In a 19 minute video posted to the site, Ezra Levant, the "Commander" of the far-right YouTube channel Rebel Media, stated that he's worried that the new YouTube policies aimed at culling "controversial religious or supremacist content" will target them and wants to do something about it.
"YouTube is censoring conservatives, it's just a matter of time before they come for us," says Levant in the end of the video. "Help us build our app to survive."
"Here's the plan, we're going to build an app that we own, not owned by YouTube," Levant said earlier. "An app that can be used to watch us on your smartphone… also a version for your laptop and TV at home."
While Levant states numerous times in the video that he wants to create a "conservative alternative to YouTube" he indicated that the app will only be used for his outlets' videos. Levant said the Rebel has been working on this app for months and think that it will be ready for free download in September. The Rebel is asking their audience for $302,000 to build this app which, from the sounds of it, will remain mysterious and untested until it's needed.
"The app will continue to work with YouTube, until the moment the YouTube does aProfessor Peterson on us and kills our account there. But, guess what, at that moment we hit a button and go 100 percent self-sufficient with our own video player."
"We're going to stay on YouTube for as long as we can."
Like any good crowd raising campaign, this one comes with perks. These include getting the Rebel headquarters named after you if you give them $50,000 and getting a lunch anywhere in Canada with Levant if you pay $10,000. According to fundraising trackers at the bottom of their website the Rebel has already raised almost $75,000 two days into the campaign.
The reason that Levant and other people at the Rebel are rather frightened are from several goals YouTube outlined in a new blog post—the particular portion that put the fear of (presumably a Christian) God into them regards new "tougher standards." It comes off a pledge made by Google general counsel Kent Walker that swore they were going to work on limiting "extremist videos."
"We'll soon be applying tougher treatment to videos that aren't illegal but have been flagged by users as potential violations of our policies on hate speech and violent extremism," reads the post. "If we find that these videos don't violate our policies but contain controversial religious or supremacist content, they will be placed in a limited state."
This limited state means that the videos, while still remaining on YouTube, "won't be recommended, won't be monetized, and won't have key features including comments, suggested videos, and likes." YouTube stated that they will be rolling out this feature in coming weeks, first on desktop and then mobile. Some in the far-right media sphere say the censorship is already occurring after controversial professor and Patreon superstar Jordan Peterson had his access to his gmail account and YouTube channel locked. A few hours later his access was reinstated but Peterson said the company never explained why it occurred.
The content the Rebel—who has about 865,000 subscribers—ranges from stunt journalism, to typical YouTube videos ranting about the latest conservative gripe, to ranting screeds against Muslim migrants and other minorities, to far-right commentary on worldwide politics. The outlet is also prone to falling into extreme conspiracy territory—when six Muslim men were shot dead in a Quebec mosque, the Rebel sent a "journalist" to Quebec City where they proceeded to spread conspiracy theories about the homicides. After controversial Canadian motion M-103 went through, the Rebel spread conspiracy theories in regards to it and held what can only be called anti-anti-Islamophobia rallies.
Fundraising off feigned victimhood is one of the the most recurring tropes at the Rebel—Maclean's has reported that donations from their audience is the company's biggest earner. The outlet has been found to create websites before doing stunt journalism in a premeditated bid to raise off the controversy and regularly makes videos asking their audience to give them cash.
Starting new apps because of a creeping fear of censorship has become something of a cliche in the far-right media ecosystem. There has been alternatives to Facebook, Wikipedia, Reddit, Gmail, Twitter—the list goes on.
Few, if any, of these apps ever gain the support of the original app they are trying to replace.
Follow Mack Lamoureux on Twitter.