Kevin Roose, a reporter for the New York Times, subjected himself to a painful experiment so the rest of us don’t have to: he visited a host of “alt-internet” websites and social media services, operated and used by fascists and white supremacists, to assess their functionality and popularity. Some alt-righters have turned to these platforms after having been banned from Twitter, Facebook, and other mainstream services. Roose found that this hate-filled corner of the internet is rather sad and buggy, with few consistent users, poor technology, and little funding to improve these conditions. “If the alt-right’s ideology harks back to 1940s Germany,” writes Roose, “its web design might transport you to 1990s GeoCities.” Read an excerpt from his report below, or the full text here.
More than a dozen “alt-tech” companies have now emerged, each promising a refuge from political correctness and censorship. There is Gab, a kind of alt-Twitter social network that began last year, whose early adopters included prominent figures like Milo Yiannopoulos and Andrew Anglin, the founder of the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer website. There is WrongThink (alt-Facebook), PewTube (alt-YouTube), Voat (alt-Reddit), Infogalactic (alt-Wikipedia) and GoyFundMe (alt-Kickstarter). There is even WASP.love, a dating site for white nationalists and others “wishing to preserve their heritage.”
Recently, I spent several days testing a number of these alt-tech services. I created accounts, explored their features and interfaces, and interviewed users of each site about their experiences. (With my wife’s permission, I even created a WASP.love profile and advertised myself as a New York journalist looking to interview lovelorn white supremacists. Oddly, I got no takers.)
What I found on these sites was more pitiful than fear-inspiring. Sure, some alt-tech platforms were filled with upsetting examples of Nazi imagery and bigoted garbage. But most were ghost towns, with few active users and no obvious supervision. As technology products, many are second- or third-rate, with long load times, broken links and frequent error messages. A few had been taken offline altogether.
Image: Cody Wilson, developer of right-wing crowdfunding site Hatreon. Via NY Times.