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Hell in a handcart

Why aren’t we talking about the dangers of YouTube?

Buckey Wolfe is a follower of the QAnon conspiracy theory. He’s a supporter of the far-right Proud Boys, and he’s been charged with the murder of his brother.

Buckey Wolfe called 911 on Sunday evening and admitted killing his brother, saying that “God told me he was a lizard” and telling the dispatcher, “Kill me, kill me, I can’t live in this reality,” according to court documents.

In a fascinating Twitter thread, Travis View follows Wolfe’s online journey by tracking the YouTube videos he liked. The journey begins with fitness, motivation and music videos but then YouTube does what YouTube does. When Wolfe liked some videos by the YouTuber Hunter Avallone, who rails against “social justice warriors”, he started watching increasingly extreme right-wing content.

As View reports, while Wolfer was “getting into fringe political stuff” he still wasn’t “in QAnon or explicit white nationalism territory.”

And then he discovered “Rebel Media, Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes, and English far right activist Tommy Robinson.”

View:

After this, Wolfe starts getting into the real hard stuff.

We’re into muslim gangs and shapeshifting lizards, anti-semitism and paranoid racism.

Nobody is suggesting that YouTube caused Wolfe to murder his brother. But as View says, “the trajectory of Buckey Wolfe’s likes is suggestive of someone who was gradually pulled down the rabbit hole into deranged conspiratorial thinking over time.”

YouTube is fuelling the far right in two key ways. It hosts what the Guardian calls an “alternative influence network” of pundits and propagandists pushing extreme-right rhetoric, and it acts as one of the most effective and frightening radicalisation engines imaginable.

It’s part of a wider problem, of course: if Hitler were around today, he’d be on Radio 4 or Question Time with his “controversial views”. But it’s a very big part of the problem. YouTube has become a monster – a monster that’s creating many more monsters.