Notre Dame Cathedral fire spurs Islamophobic conspiracy theories on social media

Breaking News Emails
Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
April 16, 2019, 6:09 PM GMT
By Ben Collins
As firefighters worked to contain the fire that ravaged the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on Monday, Twitter and YouTube struggled to take down conspiracy theories being pushed by both anonymous accounts and verified white nationalists who spread Islamophobic theories about the disaster.
French officials investigating the fire have ruled out arson and terrorism , saying the fire that led to a roof collapse may have been tied to ongoing repairs at the cathedral.
Images and videos of the flaming cathedral spread quickly across social media and were quickly seized upon to push Islamophobic narratives that have flourished in far-right politics around the world in recent years. Those sentiments then made their way to more mainstream conservative pundits, who questioned whether the fire had been set on purpose.
Some anonymous users used editing software to push conspiracy theories on YouTube and Twitter, and their accounts remained active on the platforms — despite repeated debunkings and reports on the platform. One video on YouTube, viewed 40,000 times, superimposes audio of a man yelling “Allahu Akbar” (Arabic for “God is great”) over a video of the Notre Dame fire. The audio comes from a years-old video, which is the first result when a user searches for “Allahu Akbar Scream” in Google. The video has not been removed from YouTube.
French journalist talks cultural and historic significance of Notre Dame April 16, 2019 08:42
The account that posted the video, which features a white supremacist cartoon for an avatar, remains active.
That hoax video was then re-posted to Twitter, receiving almost 2,000 retweets and tens of thousands of views before being removed Monday night. The user’s account, however, remains active.
Sophie Bjork-James, an assistant professor of anthropology at Vanderbilt University who focuses on white nationalism, said the edited videos and talking points are part of a recruitment strategy but they “also fit into their ideology that the race war is happening.”
“They’re committed to getting more white people to white nationalism, and fanning the flames of Islamophobia is helpful,” she said.
Bjork-James said the onus is on social media companies to limit the use of their platforms as recruitment megaphones. She cited prominent white nationalist Richard Spencer’s tweet Monday that the fire could “spur the White man into action—to sieze (sic) power in his countries, in Europe, in the world.”
“Individual countries can pass laws limiting hate speech, but given the global nature of white nationalism today, and how it inspires violence, a lot of the responsibility falls on social media companies,” she said. “That’s especially true when so often they’re perpetuating lies, not just racism, that portray Muslims as celebrating the burning of the cathedral.”
White nationalist YouTube agitators including Stefan Molyneux and Faith Goldy, who are both verified on Twitter, pushed conspiracy theories about Muslims related to the fire that racked up tens of thousands of retweets. Goldy was banned by Facebook earlier this month in a purge of white nationalist accounts. Molyneux, who lives in Canada and had no first-hand information about the fire, implored the public not to trust any officials regarding a cause of the fire. Goldy and Molyneux’s tweets are still visible.
Molyneux’s talking point was later pushed by more mainstream parts of the conservative media ecosystem. Talk radio host Glenn Beck claimed on his show that “if this was started by Islamists, I don’t think you’ll find out about it” and compared the fire to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Get this: @Twitter says they won’t take action against this account bc it’s bio says “parody” so the account has 48 hours to comply with the parody policy. Can someone please explain to Twitter how their platform works?! — Matt Dornic (@mdornic) April 15, 2019
Twitter also declined to immediately take down some misinformation related to the fire, including a fake CNN account that claimed the fire was an act of terrorism, according to a CNN spokesperson. The account was later suspended.
While social media companies have taken a more active role in moderating their platforms, most have only recently attempted to crack down on certain types of hate speech, such as white nationalism and islamophobia.
Twitter and YouTube did not reply to requests for comment by press time.
Twitter released a report Tuesday detailing its efforts to remove hate speech. The company said that its automated system took down 38 percent of all abusive content from the platform before it reached public view. The company will soon update its rules “so they’re shorter, simpler and easier to understand,” it wrote in a blog post .
Ben Collins
Ben Collins covers disinformation, extremism and the internet for NBC News.

This content was originally published here.

Related posts

Trump’s 2020 attack strategy: Smear Biden over mental fitness By Eric Bradner, Ryan Nobles and Dan Merica, CNN President Donald Trump and his allies have zeroed-in on an attack against Joe Biden, going after the presumptive Democratic governmental nominee’s mental physical fitness in a coordinated effort using smears and innuendo to paint him as ill-quipped to be President of the United States. Trump for months has questioned the mental skill of the opponent he calls “Drowsy Joe.” Trump last week described Biden as “a sleepy person in a basement of a home,” and he has actually repeatedly recommended that Biden did not personally write declarations issued by his project criticizing Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. His project and the Republican National Committee have progressively focused its attacks on Biden’s tendency for on-camera verbal stumbles in recent weeks, as it looks for to define Biden after he emerged triumphant from the Democratic primary. One example came previously this month, when Trump’s campaign launched an ad comparing Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, which closed with the line: “At least Bernie remembers his positions.” The attacks are an early demonstration of how Trump will utilize the full Republican politician Celebration apparatus to run a scorched-earth campaign based upon personal insults and unwarranted insinuations– a heightened variation of his playbook from 2016, when Trump and his allies, without proof, called into question Hillary Clinton’s health. They have actually become a daily occurrence from Trump’s campaign, assistants and Republican allies throughout every medium possible– on social media, in campaign e-mail blasts and videos and on Trump-aligned media companies like Fox News. Biden’s advisers and Democratic allies mention that Trump is guilty of many of the same verbal tics he is attacking Biden over, and often lies and embraces conspiracy theories. As one Biden ally put it: “Has Trump taken his own guidance and downed a gallon of bleach yet?” The attacks weaponize Biden’s propensity to stumble over words, utilize the wrong word or interrupt himself in the middle of long answers by stating, “anyhow,” and altering course. To fans of a former vice president who in December 2018 called himself a “gaffe maker,” those long-time spoken tics have always belonged to Biden’s public persona. They are made more forgivable to his advocates by Biden’s openness about conquering a stutter. Aside from periodic jousts amongst assistants on Twitter, Biden’s project has mostly neglected the Trump project’s attacks. Biden-world’s view is that the political and media landscape has actually shifted because 2016, when every Trump attack on a rival was treated as novel and took command of the project narrative on social media and cable news. His consultants pointed to Trump’s stopped working efforts to guide the political discussion in the 2017 Virginia governor’s race, when he and his GOP allies cautioned of the MS-13 gang, in addition to the 2018 midterms, when Trump’s message concentrated on caravans of refugees approaching the US-Mexico border. ” The misapprehension that whatever Trump wishes to speak about is inherently efficient and that he gets to act as the media’s at-large task editor has actually been closed,” a Biden consultant said. As Biden has adapted to marketing in the age of coronavirus– knocked off the campaign path and rather transmitting occasions and interviews from a transformed rec room in his basement in Delaware– Trump’s project is seizing on every on-camera miscue, with conservative Trump allies such as Fox News host Sean Hannity then magnifying them. ” His sharpness, or absence thereof is on screen every day, every time he talks,” Trump project spokesperson Tim Murtaugh informed CNN in response to concerns about the technique. “His failure to keep a train of thought going is obvious.” Biden frequently looks down at his notes, which Trump’s allies have actually mischaracterized as Biden dropping off to sleep. Trump’s boy Eric Trump tweeted a seven-second video from Biden’s online broadcast with Hillary Clinton on Tuesday, along with the hashtag “#SleepyJoe.”. Robby Mook, Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign supervisor, said Trump “always projects his biggest weakens on his challenger in an attempt to deflect criticism from himself.”. ” What is very clear is the White Home thinks his presidency will be evaluated on how properly he is managing coronavirus, so it makes ideal sense that he is now attempting to accuse his challenger of incompetence, which is ridiculous.”. The attacks resemble how Trump’s campaign pursued Clinton in 2016, Mook noted. Trump and his campaign frequently cast the former secretary of state as sick or unhealthy, a technique that was further elevated after Clinton stumbled after a September 11 occasion in New York due to concealed pneumonia. ” I simply see a pattern regularly from 2016 all the way through now, which is, he attempts to predict his most significant issues onto his opponents so he gives the media a false equivalence to attempt to muddy the water,” Mook stated. “Part of the factor he was so obsessed with calling Hillary Clinton dishonest is because he is probably the most deceitful individual to win the White Home.”. Biden advisers argue that Trump’s efforts to caricature Biden won’t overcome the same qualities that insulated him in the Democratic primary: After 5 decades in the public eye and eight years as President Barack Obama’s No. 2, voters feel like they know him. Biden frequently expresses distaste for attacks on his rivals’ character. His aides say that by questioning Biden’s mental capability, the President is guiding the project toward concerns of character and fitness. ” This is asinine to tee up– since it’s 10,000 times even worse for him,” a Biden adviser stated. As an example of how easily Trump could be parodied, Biden’s assistants indicated a video from The Daily Show in which Fox News hosts and analysts’ comments about Biden’s mental skill were interspersed with videos of Trump’s own verbal flubs. Biden spokesman Andrew Bates tweeted The Daily Program’s video, which has been seen 3.6 million times on Twitter, on March 25, in action to Trump spokesperson Matt Wolking tweeting: “When is the last time Joe Biden was lucid?”. ” Triggering voters to assess prospects’ mental states is a devastating proposal for Donald Trump, so we’re never going to prevent him from going there,” Bates said. – CNNPolitics.

Authentication failed. No user with this email address found. This content was originally published here.