Unmasking Deception: Video-Streaming Site Exposed for Fundraising in Support of White Supremacists, Reveals Report

Unmasking Deception: Video-Streaming Site Exposed for Fundraising in Support of White Supremacists, Reveals Report

"Dark Undercurrents: Odysee, the Cryptocurrency-Powered Video Platform, Unmasked as a Breeding Ground for Extremists

In a chilling revelation, the Southern Poverty Law Center's inaugural Digital Threat Report, exclusively shared with USA TODAY, exposes Odysee, an online video-storage and livestreaming platform, as a haven for extremists. The report, focusing on the platform's cryptocurrency-based revenue system, reveals that these extremists are amassing hundreds of thousands of dollars under the radar.

Launched in 2020, Odysee, a subsidiary of file-sharing site LBRY.com, resembles a regular video-sharing platform like YouTube. However, its interface conceals a sinister underbelly, as researchers discovered that white supremacists and other extremists exploit the site's blockchain technology to disseminate propaganda and hate, all while accumulating significant funds.

The Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project plans to release a series of investigations into technology platforms that have been co-opted by extremists, shedding light on the alarming trend of 'alt-tech' websites catering to extremist ideologies. This initiative aims to build a knowledge base, alerting users, parents, and investors about the nefarious activities taking place on these platforms.

Megan Squire, the center's deputy director for data analytics, emphasized the need to focus on tech platforms slipping through the cracks, enabling extremism and fundraising without widespread awareness. She stated, 'Say you see Odysee.com on your kid’s browser history − it just looks like a video-sharing website − you don’t realize that at any given moment they’re two clicks away from actual Nazi propaganda.'

Odysee, akin to YouTube in appearance, operates on blockchain technology, offering "censorship-resistant" videos. The platform, unresponsive to requests for comment, was founded by Silicon Valley cryptocurrency enthusiasts, including former LBRY CEO Jeremy Kauffman. Despite its deceptive façade, Odysee has become a breeding ground for hate, prompting concerns about the misuse of technology to spread extremist ideologies and raise substantial funds beyond conventional scrutiny."

"Unveiling the Cryptocurrency Nexus: Odysee's Troubled Past and Extremists' Lucrative Exploits

In a disturbing revelation, the online video-storage and livestreaming platform Odysee, spun off from LBRY Inc. in 2021, has become a breeding ground for extremists, who have found a lucrative haven within the platform's cryptocurrency-based revenue system. The Southern Poverty Law Center's report, shared exclusively with USA TODAY, sheds light on Odysee's troubled history, its connection with LBRY Inc., and the alarming financial gains made by extremists.

LBRY Inc. faced legal troubles with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in 2021 for failing to file a registration statement while selling assets to investors. Although the SEC won a judgment exceeding $111,000 against LBRY in July, Odysee continues to operate, and the researchers have uncovered a concerning trend of extremists profiting on the platform.

Following the adage to 'follow the money,' the researchers tracked months of donations on Odysee, revealing that extremists received hundreds of thousands of dollars through the platform's unique monetization system. Odysee allows content creators to earn cryptocurrency called LBRY Credits (LBC) based on engagement metrics like views, which can then be converted into U.S. dollars. The platform also enables direct donations through subscriptions and 'Hyperchat donations.'

The report details the team's analysis of 165 extremist channels, tracking donations from April 24, 2021, to August 31, 2023. A staggering 113 channels received at least one Hyperchat donation, collectively raising $336,000. Major beneficiaries included a channel associated with a neo-fascist novel author promoting conspiracy theories and another linked to a white supremacist podcast network principal.

The complex web of cryptocurrency, blockchain technology, and content hosting on Odysee has allowed extremists to exploit emerging technologies for their agenda. As technology evolves rapidly, extremists, often early adopters of such innovations, utilize platforms like Odysee to evade censorship and disseminate hateful propaganda. Odysee's troubled history and the financial gains of extremists underscore the urgent need for increased vigilance and scrutiny in the evolving landscape of online platforms."

"Digital Havens of Hate: Odysee Defies Content Moderation Trends, Emerges as a Breeding Ground for Extremists

In the ever-evolving landscape of online platforms, extremist groups often find themselves sidelined by stricter content moderation measures. However, Odysee has proven to be an exception to this trend, becoming a haven for extremists seeking refuge from conventional scrutiny. Jared Holt, a senior researcher at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, notes that as platforms grow and develop, extremists typically face increased challenges, but Odysee remains an outlier in this regard.

The Southern Poverty Law Center's inaugural Digital Threat Report, with its focus on Odysee, marks the beginning of a series that will delve into the roles different platforms play in the world of online hate. Megan Squire, the center's deputy director for data analytics, emphasized the goal of shining a light on websites that have become 'havens' for extremists. The team aims to investigate whether these platforms actively 'enable' extremists, raising critical questions about the responsibility of the companies or individuals running such sites.

Megan Squire, a former computer science professor with a history of data-driven research on extremist groups, brings a rigorous and analytical approach to the Digital Threat Reports. Drawing on her expertise, the reports aim to provide a comprehensive understanding of the dynamics at play on platforms like Odysee. Jared Holt expressed appreciation for this effort, highlighting the importance of staying vigilant in monitoring the ever-changing landscape of online platforms that can either succeed or fail, with new ones constantly emerging.

As digital landscapes continue to shape the narratives of our online interactions, initiatives like the Digital Threat Reports become invaluable tools in identifying and addressing platforms that may inadvertently or knowingly foster extremist ideologies, ensuring a safer and more responsible online environment for users worldwide."

"In conclusion, the revelation of Odysee as a haven for extremists, defying the usual trends of content moderation, underscores the evolving challenges in the digital landscape. The Southern Poverty Law Center's inaugural Digital Threat Report, focusing on Odysee, serves as a vital step in unveiling the dynamics of online platforms that inadvertently or knowingly facilitate extremist ideologies.

As technology and platforms continue to evolve, Megan Squire's data-driven approach and commitment to shedding light on digital havens for extremists highlight the urgency of scrutinizing and addressing these issues. The series of reports planned by the center will further contribute to our understanding of different platforms' roles in propagating online hate.

Jared Holt's acknowledgment of the importance of staying vigilant in monitoring emerging platforms emphasizes the ongoing effort required to maintain a safer online environment. As these reports unfold, they serve as invaluable tools in the collective endeavor to navigate the complex terrain of digital spaces, fostering awareness, responsibility, and a commitment to combating extremism in the online realm."

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