Monetizing Propaganda: How Far-right Extremists Earn Money by Video Streaming

by   Megan Squire, et al.

Video streaming platforms such as Youtube, Twitch, and DLive allow users to live-stream video content for viewers who can optionally express their appreciation through monetary donations. DLive is one of the smaller and lesser-known streaming platforms, and historically has had fewer content moderation practices. It has thus become a popular place for violent extremists and other clandestine groups to earn money and propagandize. What is the financial structure of the DLive streaming ecosystem and how much money is changing hands? In the past it has been difficult to understand how far-right extremists fundraise via podcasts and video streams because of the secretive nature of the activity and because of the difficulty of getting data from social media platforms. This paper describes a novel experiment to collect and analyze data from DLive's publicly available ledgers of transactions in order to understand the financial structure of the clandestine, extreme far-right video streaming community. The main findings of this paper are, first, that the majority of donors are using micropayments in varying frequencies, but a small handful of donors spend large amounts of money to finance their favorite streamers. Next, the timing of donations to high-profile far-right streamers follows a fairly predictable pattern that is closely tied to a broadcast schedule. Finally, the far-right video streaming financial landscape is divided into separate cliques which exhibit very little crossover in terms of sizable donations. This work will be important to technology companies, policymakers, and researchers who are trying to understand how niche social media services, including video platforms, are being exploited by extremists to propagandize and fundraise.


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