Alternative Influence: Broadcasting the Reactionary Right on YouTube presents data from approximately 65 political influencers across 81 channels to identify the “Alternative Influence Network (AIN)”; an alternative media system that adopts the techniques of brand influencers to build audiences and “sell” them political ideology.
Three key quotes from "Alternative Influence":
- “Increasingly, understanding the circulation of extremist political content does not just involve fringe communities and anonymous actors. Instead, it requires us to scrutinize polished, well-lit microcelebrities and the captivating videos that are easily available on the pages of the internet’s most popular video platform.”
- “By connecting to and interacting with one another through YouTube videos, influencers with mainstream audiences lend their credibility to openly white nationalist and other extremist content creators.”
- “YouTube monetizes influence for everyone, regardless of how harmful their belief systems are. The platform, and its parent company, have allowed racist, misogynist, and harassing content to remain online – and in many cases, to generate advertising revenue – as long as it does not explicitly include slurs. YouTube also profits directly from features like Super Chat which often incentivizes ‘shocking’ content.”
Questions for deeper consideration:
- Does YouTube encourage its users to follow bread crumb trails to more extreme ideological content?
- How do these influencers establish credibility, relatability, and authenticity with their audiences?
- Which influencers aim to destabilize audience members’ world-views in order to turn them against mainstream media, in some cases encouraging them to openly embrace racism, misogyny, and white nationalism?
- How does the Alternative Influence Network interact with recommendation algorithms to surface extremist content, especially to young people? Who profits off these dynamics?
- Why has YouTube remained conspicuously absent from calls for platform accountability?
- How can we raise awareness of influencers’ top techniques, from SEO to strategic controversy, for building and radicalizing online audiences?