The ‘Alt-Right’ Created a Parallel Internet. It’s an Unholy Mess


Cody Wilson developed a crowdfunding website, Hatreon, to give right-wing personalities and others a way to raise money for their projects. Credit Ilana Panich-Linsman for The New York Times
If you’ve lost sleep worrying about the growing power of the alt-right — that shadowy coalition that includes white nationalists, anti-feminists, far-right reactionaries and meme-sharing trolls — I may have found a cure for your anxiety.

By Kevin Roose | The New York Times

Just try using its websites.

In recent months, as sites like YouTube, Twitter and Facebook have cracked down on hate speech and barred several high-profile conservative users, the alt-right made a declaration of technological independence from Silicon Valley. Hard-right activists vowed to create their own versions of these digital services, on which all views would be welcome, no matter how crude or incendiary.

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.

read more