Former white supremacist: Kicking extremists off social media plays into 'victimhood narrative'

A former white supremacist turned anti-hate activist said Friday that kicking extremists off social media platforms when they violate company policy just plays into their “victimhood narrative.”

“I don’t believe de-platforming works,” author and motivational speaker Arno Michaelis told Hill.TV during an appearance on “Rising.”

“All violent extremism ideologies are rooted in victimhood, and when you de-platform someone you’re feeding that victimhood narrative,” he added.

However, Michaelis said that removing users for violating hate speech or participating in online harassment can be effective in some cases, pointing to conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

“When you have someone who is making millions of dollars on very toxic, harmful content — denying that Sandy Hook happened, things like that, I have no problem with pulling the plug on that,” he told Hill.TV.

YouTube last month removed Jones’s far-right program Infowars after it made a short-lived return to the video platform. The account was terminated for violating the company’s terms of service, though a YouTube representative didn’t specify what those terms were.

Infowars, and channels associated with it, was originally kicked off the platform last year for similarly violating YouTube community guidelines.

Michaelis’s comments come after YouTube announced earlier this month that it had removed more than 100,000 videos marked as hate speech under the platform’s new policy against bigoted and supremacist content.

The Google-owned company also said it removed more than 500 million comments for hate speech.

YouTube, along with other Silicon Valley tech giants, has come under fire from civil rights groups, lawmakers and regulators alike for its handling of a broad range of issues, including children’s privacy and extremist content.

In response to this criticism, YouTube has sought to take more action against hate speech. In June, it announced that it had updated its hate speech policies to ban videos that promote extremist ideologies, such as white supremacy. 

—Tess Bonn