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Deplatforming helps fight online extremism, report finds

4 March, 2020

Extremist content on social media is in decline, but YouTube continues to be the platform of choice for Britain’s far-right movement, according to a new report.

State of Hate 2020, an annual review produced by the charity Hope Not Hate, found that the number of people consuming far-right content on social media diminished in 2019.

This was largely thanks to efforts by the likes of Twitter and Facebook to either ban or curtail the reach of certain prominent figures and groups, significantly affecting their ability to raise money and spread their views.

“The last decade has seen far-right extremists attract audiences unthinkable for most of the postwar period, and the damage has been seen on our streets, in the polls, and in the rising death toll from far-right terrorists,” writes one of the report’s authors, Joe Mulhall.

“Deplatforming is not straightforward, but it limits the reach of online hate, and social media companies have to do more and do more now.”

The 140-page paper devotes a section to YouTube, and singles out British far-right channels such as The Iconoclast and Way of the World, who continue to receive millions of views and have several hundred thousand subscribers.

At the report’s launch, Labour MP Yvette Cooper described the platform as “an organ of radicalisation” and recalled how, when she set up an account to search for one of the far-right groups named in it, YouTube automatically suggested neo-Nazi videos that viewers might want to watch. 

Cooper, the Labour chair of the Commons home affairs select committee, added: “Look up one thing out of curiosity and YouTube is ever willing to offer far, far more, often getting far more extreme and pushing further out to the extremes, because that is how YouTube works.”

In return, a spokesperson for YouTube responded that it had begun reducing recommendations of what it described as “borderline” content and added that “our work here is not done and we will continue making more improvements this year.”