(New York, N.Y.) – The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) reports weekly on the methods used by extremists to exploit the Internet and social media platforms to recruit followers and incite violence. This week, CEP located a profile on the gaming distribution service and social network Steam that either belongs to Christchurch shooter Brenton Tarrant, or is a replica of his account.
Additionally, a pro-ISIS affiliate group released a new online magazine for the India region calling for violence. Also, five alleged Atomwaffen Division (AWD) members were arrested, resulting in far-right Telegram groups criticizing the formation of groups like AWD due to the risk of being apprehended for taking illegal actions. Four white supremacist Telegram channels were removed, including one notorious for dispersing accelerationist content inciting violence, however all four channels were either reinstated or were replaced. CEP also located German AWD propaganda on the Imgur and ibb.co platforms. Finally, an anti-Semitic Telegram account opened profiles on Twitter, Facebook, Gab and Parler.
Suspected Brenton Tarrant Steam Account Located, Being Used to Praise Christchurch Terrorist Attack
An account on the gaming distribution service Steam suspected of belonging to Christchurch shooter Brenton Tarrant was located. The account lists its location as Tarrant’s hometown of Grafton, New South Wales, Australia, and has a display name that matches Tarrant’s known Steam account profile as reported by The Australian. The account was created in 2004, and previously played as other display names that have been associated with Tarrant. According to a website that analyzes Steam ID’s, the last name change to the current account name occurred in July 2018.
It is unclear if Steam’s terms for Online Conduct permit Valve, Steam’s owner, to remove Tarrant’s account. The Online Conduct rules prohibit subscribers from using the platform to “Defame, abuse, harass, stalk, threaten or otherwise violate the legal rights (such as rights of privacy and publicity) of others.” The Online Conduct rules also prohibit subscribers from using the platform to “Violate any applicable laws or regulations.” The continued existence of the account however, serves as an online memorial to Tarrant and his act of terrorism.
Pro-ISIS Affiliate Releases New Online Magazine For India Region
On Monday, February 24, the pro-ISIS Al-Qitaal Media Center released the first issue of an online magazine titled “Voice of Hind.” The magazine was released at a time of sectarian and mob violence in India due to that government’s Citizenship Amendment Bill, which does not include Muslims in India’s list of protected religious groups that can attain asylum, and the National Register of Citizens, which calls for Indians to provide proof of citizenship in order to be included in a national registry. On February 26, the BBC reported that 27 people had been killed following Hindu-Muslim clashes in Delhi. Muslims in India have been violently attacked by sectarian mobs.
The magazine, which seeks to exploit tensions, calls for Indian Muslims to join ISIS and praises individuals who have already done so, or have committed attacks in the group’s name. Articles also condemn nationalism and denounce India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, and other government officials.
The magazine was released on at least five platforms: Opsdata.ch, Nextcloud, Pixeldrain.com, pdfhost.io, and the Internet Archive. Three days later, the magazine was still available on four websites: opsdata.cn, Nextcloud, Pixeldrain.com, and the Internet Archive.
Five Alleged Members of the Atomwaffen Division Arrested, Extreme Right Telegram Channels Criticize Group Formations
On Wednesday, February 26, charges against five alleged members of the AWD from four states were made public in Virginia and Washington state. According to charging documents, John Cameron Denton, who resides in Texas and is AWD’s former leader, was accused of harassment and swatting ProPublica journalists as revenge for revealing his name and face in a news report. Denton was also accused of an attempted swatting of former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen that was thwarted by the U.S. Secret Service. Denton had worked with John William Kirby Kelley, who was arrested and charged with swatting related offenses in January 2020.
Four other individuals were charged in Washington state. Kaleb James Cole, AWD’s suspected Washington cell leader, was charged with sending threatening mail and cyberstalking. Cameron Brandon Shea, also of Washington state, Taylor Ashley Parker-Dipeppe, of Florida, and Johnny Roman Garza, of Arizona were also arrested. The four are accused of seeking to intimidate a Seattle journalist and two people affiliated with the Anti-Defamation League in Florida.
According to the affidavit in support of a criminal complaint for Denton, the notorious neo-Nazi author and activist James Mason participated in online chats on the Discord platform with members of AWD. According to court documents “James Mason joined the (Discord) channel on multiple occasions to offer the group encouragement in pursuing neo-Nazi activities and views. Denton expected channel participants to join the channel when James Mason spoke to the group.” Mason praised AWD in a September 2019 video made by the group and wore the group’s insignia, however he has publicly claimed that he has no role with AWD.
Following the arrests, several extreme right-wing Telegram channels criticized the formation of groups like AWD, stating that they are traps and that it is not worth being arrested for taking illegal actions. Several posts advocating leaving society entirely, rather than fighting against it.
Four White Supremacist Telegram Channels Removed, All Reinstated or Recreated
Between February 20 and February 25, four white supremacist Telegram channels were removed from the platform, allegedly for doxing a minor in France. Two of the channels, removed on February 20, were recreated, and the two channels removed on February 25 were reinstated by Telegram. One of the channels that was removed had a content mirror channel and was unaffected. The same dox information was also posted on channels that were not removed. It is unclear how the removals were performed, whether they were the work of a single individual lobbying Telegram, law enforcement, or a Telegram team.
One of the channels that was removed is notorious for posting accelerationist white supremacist content that endorses violence. Telegram has notably not commented on whether white supremacist or anti-Semitic channels have been removed for encouraging acts of violence. Numerous channels and chats on the platform have called for violence against people of color, Jews, LGBT people, Muslims, immigrants, journalists, politicians, activists, and others.
One of channels that was removed but later reinstated, declared that they would remain on Telegram for the “time being” but that they would start looking into other options.
German Atomwaffen Division Propaganda Located
Online propaganda posters made by an individual in support of the German branch of the AWD was located on the websites Imgur and ibb.co. The individual who made the posters shared the links on an online neo-Nazi forum. Images include content made by the American AWD translated into German, as well as calls to commit violence against Muslims, Jews, anti-fascists, and asylum seekers in Germany, and praise for accused Hanau shooter Tobias Rathjen. The online posters also share a link to the online neo-Nazi forum. Each image on Imgur had been viewed less than 35 times on February 27. All links were posted on February 24, 2020.
Anti-Semitic Telegram Account Opens Twitter, Facebook, Gab, Parler Accounts
On Tuesday, February 25, an anti-Semitic Telegram account opened accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Gab, and Parler. The Telegram account posts photos of Jews and their tweets regarding anti-racism, religion, gender, and sexual orientation in an effort to threaten and intimidate them. Many individuals listed are left-wing, and most are either journalists, activists, or celebrities.
By Thursday, February 27, the Twitter and Facebook accounts had been removed, while the Gab and Parlor accounts were still active. An Instagram account that mirrors content from the Telegram channel and shares the same name was created in January and remains online. Content on the Instagram page is copied from the Telegram channel. The Instagram account was reported on January 24, but is still active a month later. The Instagram account has also posted videos that encourage violence against Jews and promotes Holocaust denial