Friday, ProPublica published an inside look at Atomwaffen Division, a neo-Nazi organization the nonprofit publication called "one of the country's most notorious extremist groups.”
In January, Atomwaffen Division member Samuel Woodward allegedly murdered 19-year-old Blaze Bernstein, who was gay and Jewish, and Discord chat logs obtained by ProPublica show the organization celebrating the act. According to ProPublica, the group has around 80 members in cells scattered across 23 states.
In May 2017, authorities in Florida arrested Atomwaffen member Devon Arthurs after he allegedly murdered his roommates and waved a gun around at Tampa-area shopping mall. In January, another person influenced by Atomwaffen, Nicholas Giampa, allegedly murdered his girlfriend’s parents after they tried to separate the pair. The leaked chat logs ProPublica obtained showed Atomwaffen members discussing insurgency-style tactics aimed at destabilizing the US by attacking its infrastructure.
YouTube videos made by Atomwaffen Division are still online, as is a group with the same name on the giant video game platform Steam.
One YouTube video titled "Zealous Operation" shows masked members of the group yelling "gas the kikes, race war now," before they begin firing guns. A warning on the video says it's been identified by the YouTube community "as inappropriate or offensive to some audiences." This means users have to click a button that says "I understand and wish to proceed" before viewing the video, and that certain features like comments and the viewcount have been disabled. This is the same warning YouTube put on conspiracy videos made be a user named Mike M after a video he uploaded suggesting that a student from the Parkland shooting is a crisis actor was the number one trending video on the platform.
Overall, the Atomwaffen Division channel has uploaded 12 videos since it was created June 29, 2017. According to the channel’s about section, it is the "backup youtube page of the Atomwaffen Division - Revolutionary National Socialist Organization." It links out to what appears to be the group’s primary channel, which only has one video titled "Fire up the Panzers and launch the nukes! The Atomwaffen Division is here!" It was uploaded nine months ago.
YouTube's policy explains that it does not permit hate speech, and says that "Hate speech refers to content that promotes violence against or has the primary purpose of inciting hatred against individuals or groups based on certain attributes."
We also found an Atomwaffen Division Steam group that links back to one of the group’s websites and its YouTube accounts. We have reached out to members of the Steam group, but were not able to verify if it represents Atomwaffen Division in any official capacity. Steam has deleted group after this story was first published.
The group only has 17 members, but their accounts are a disturbing grab bag of Nazi imagery and Atomwaffen-style propaganda. The group's description section clearly states its racist worldview. One member has used the screen name “PURE ARYAN 100%,” and uses a photo of South Carolina mass murderer Dylann Roof as his avatar. The comments on his profile reference iron and blood and swastikas.
Another profile from the group encourages people to “Read SIEGE and prepare for a race war.” SIEGE is a 500 page tome collecting the work of prominent radical Neo-Nazi James Mason. Atomwaffen is one of the several groups publishing and circulating the book.
Steam is full of hate groups. As we recently reported, Steam left the racist rantings of school-shooter linger online for years. The company that operates it, Valve, takes a hands-off approach when dealing with hate and racism and hasn't responded to multiple requests for comment on this issue since October 2017. Its own “Rules and Guidelines For Steam: Discussions, Reviews, and User Generated Content” says the platform doesn’t allow “racism” or “discrimination,” and yet groups like Atomwaffen remain.
YouTube is almost as bad as Valve at moderating content. A previous Motherboard investigation revealed that the site routinely leaves up Islamic State content for weeks before taking it down. Now, a growing domestic extremist movement in the United States is taking advantage of that same attitude towards moderation.
YouTube and Valve did not respond to a request for comment.
Update: This story has been updated to note Valve has deleted the Atomwaffen Division Steam group.