Revealed: How racist Irish YouTube accounts profit by livestreaming protests

Revealed: How racist Irish YouTube accounts profit by livestreaming protests

A screenshot from a video claiming to be of people going from Finglas Garda Station toward the office of Sinn Féin TD Dessie Ellis.

Online livestreams by seven Irish YouTube accounts filming anti-migrant protests were viewed over a million times during the first days of 2023 amid warnings that violent rhetoric has ramped up. 

An analysis of just seven accounts reveals repeated anti-migrant and racist remarks, with livestreamers often referring to "fakeugees", a "plantation" and "people trafficking". 

Some account holders have sought to monetise streams of protests that they themselves have organised, potentially benefitting financially from spreading racism and misinformation about refugees and asylum seekers.

The online content creators can keep 70% of the money pledged by viewers in a system called "Super Thanks". 

According to Google's policies, the 70% figure is calculated after taxes and fees are deducted, including App Store fees on iOS. 

According to YouTube, it has strict community guidelines that it "rigorously enforces" and reviews of "flagged" channels are ongoing. 

In the days after The Irish Examiner made inquiries about anti-immigrant rhetoric, a number of accounts that had not been analysed, but had put out live streams from protests, were subject to bans.

YouTube operates a three-strikes system for accounts that do breach the guidance. If, in any 90-day period a channel receives a first strike, it will be subject to a one-week suspension, a second strike will lead to a two-week suspension, and a third strike will see a channel terminated.

A spokesperson for YouTube told The Irish Examiner the company had made moves against a number of the anti-immigrant accounts.

YouTube says it operates a three-strikes policy.
YouTube says it operates a three-strikes policy.

"We’ve previously removed content from and issued a strike for violations of our community guidelines, including our hate speech policy, which strictly prohibits content that promotes or encourages hatred or violence. 

"This means that the channel was temporarily suspended from publishing new videos or livestreams, in accordance with our three-strikes policy."

The company said it has also removed content and issued suspensions for violating Covid-19medical misinformation policies in recent years, against a background of anti-vaccine speech.

Anti-migrant protests have grown in recent weeks as pressure grows on the international protection system in Ireland.

Last week, a group of 100 masked men was filmed talking about protesting at Sinn Féin TD Dessie Ellis’s home after they had marched to his constituency office. 

Other politicians have seen their offices targeted after a wave of protests at migrant accommodation facilities.

An anti-migrant protest which took place in Ballymun.
An anti-migrant protest which took place in Ballymun.

A spokesperson for the Far-Right Observatory, which carried out the analysis of YouTube accounts, said the issue is a growing one of concern.

"The violent rhetoric has ramped up. There have been no parallel changes on social media to counteract this. Even after things are reported, it's there online," the observatory said in a statement.

"There's not a real interest because of the cost to the business. There's no political pressure, no real blowback. 

These people are using infrastructure and architecture that's available to us all to spread hate.

"There is a rampant movement of rumouring that is hard to keep up with," it added.

"The mechanics of how social media helps to spread misinformation are striking to see. 

"There's a bit of brand damage from hosting certain people but the companies tend not to take overall context into account, it's what's in front of their eyes."

The Government is aiming to enact hate speech legislation before the summer recess, which will make it easier to prosecute the use of hostile or prejudiced slurs, gestures, other symbols, and graffiti.

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