PewDiePie and Amplification of White Supremacist Rhetoric on Twitter


Just days after Twitter refused to ban white nationalist rhetoric because they feared it would cause them to ban some GOP politicians, a 4-chan-associated white supremacist was arrested for the synagogue shooting in San Diego.

The San Diego synagogue shooting has several parallels to the mosque shooting in Christchurch. Notably, however, both shooters reference PewDiePie (aka, Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg). PewDiePie is a millionaire Swedish gamer-turned-YouTuber who lives in England. He is also rabidly popular on social media with over 17 million followers on Twitter alone.

Granted, a heavy portion of his followers are bots and trolls that are followed by other bots and trolls.

White Supremacist Rhetoric

Not unlike President Trump, PewDiePie has gained a lot of his notoriety from being over-the-top. He’s also known for using racist, anti-Semitic, and sexist imagery and rhetoric across his social media accounts.

While Kjellberg (aka PewDiePie) disavowed the Christchurch shooter, one must wonder—especially after the San Diego synagogue shooting—if he’ll ever truly grasp that his hate only serves to create more hate.

Here are a couple of more articles on the topic, just for good measure (here and here).

Is it any wonder that such hateful rhetoric—being amplified by millions of accounts (fake and real) on social media—is serving as a font of inspiration for violent action in the real world?

Twitter: Complacency or Complicity?

This brings us back to Twitter’s unwillingness to filter for White Supremacist content because they fear that GOP politicians would get caught in the filter. To be clear: instead of holding those individual politicians responsible for what they say, Twitter is giving them carte blanche to espouse and amplify their hate-filled rhetoric.

And, as PewDiePie’s account shows, it’s easy to amplify hate on Twitter with the innumerable fake accounts.

Aside from providing mass propaganda and disinformation, fake Twitter accounts actively promote division and chaos while amplifying hate-filled rhetoric.

Keep in mind that 40%—60% of all Twitter accounts are fake.

A Question of Twitter’s Accountability

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey consistently talks about improving the “health of the conversation” on Twitter; yet he won’t filter for white supremacist rhetoric. He won’t even clean the platform of the fake accounts that amplify it.

If Twitter filters the platform for white supremacist rhetoric and gets rid of the fake accounts amplifying it, accounts like PewDiePie’s would either whither into non-influencer status or be suspended altogether. Most importantly, the real-world harm created from their bullhorns would be diminished.

Twitter’s willful inaction, by default, supports and exacerbates the increasing hate and divisiveness we are witnessing on the platform. Most people would call that unhealthy.

Written by Virginia Murr

Read More Commentary about Social Media:

How Social Media Breeds Hate

States are Cracking Down on Companies that Sell Fake Social Media Accounts

Fake Social Media Accounts, Real World Impact

Why Political Bots are Effective but Commercial Bots are Not

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Author: Virginia Murr