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Keiko @keikoinboston
, 112 tweets, 42 min read Read on Twitter
1. Churnalism in action:

- Former white supremacist claims in reddit AMA that neo-Nazis use Fortnight to recruit.…
- 6/28/18: reddit AMA mentioned on a video game forum.…

- 6/29/18: Niche comics website runs story about claims. Does not fact check or ask Epic Games for comment but tells readers "It's something that we all need to be aware of, especially those of us who have children of our own who play games online."…
- 7/2/18: The Sun runs story without fact checking or asking Epic Games for comment.…
- In the days after: Other outlets reprint or repackage Sun story. Still no fact checking. Only outlet I found who asked for comment was PC Games. No update.…
- 7/10/18: ABC affiliate WBMA which covers Birmingham, Alabama, runs with story and provides local color and “proof” in the way of a quote from one local gamer. Again, no fact checking or asking Epic Games for comment.…
- Other ABC affiliates also running story.…
- 9/6/18: Two months later, former white supremacist asking for people to come forward with their neo-Nazi video game recruitment stories.
9. Folks, this is not what journalism should be. We should demand better of the media outlets that purport to serve the public.

I’m surprised that no one has called for a boycott of Fortnite yet.
10. I should clarify that I don’t play Fortnite or other online multiplayer games & have no idea if this is true. But one guy claiming it in an AMA doesn’t make it a fact. The media are not doing their jobs when they’re just quoting one person’s unverified claims.
11. While I realize that there could be some truth to the claims, keep in mind that this is the same man who has claimed that Sam Harris, Jordan Peterson & Stefan Molyneux are more dangerous than David Duke & Richard Spencer. Extraordinary claims requires extraordinary evidence.
12. Here’s my (very long) thread evaluating those claims.
13. I should have take the time to read the context around these claims.

14. Now that I’ve read it, I think it’s even more irresponsible that media outlets and bloggers are writing about it without fact checking or digging up the evidence that Picciolini says exists.
15. Reddit AMAs are pretty hard to follow because they’re not chronological but here are some screenshots. I’m unclear on what order these were posted in.

First: vague generalized claims without going into any detail.
16. When asked to provide proof, he won’t. "Easy to find, but I won't publicize it.”

Someone else links this Rolling Stone piece which claims young men use "Minecraft and other gaming platforms as a gateway into the larger far-right underground”.…
17. Sorry, I failed to notice that the reddit page I was looking at was just comments from one question, not the whole AMA. Here’s the question that got the response in tweet #15.
18. Full AMA (ask me anything) is here. Not seeing any other answers re: video games.…
19. This is probably in reference to Sam Harris. Although Picciolini has openly called Harris more dangerous than David Duke and Richard Spencer he believes Harris owes him an apology (see tweet #11). 🤔
20. Accuses someone who is probably Jewish of believing in Jewish conspiracy theories because of their use of the term "American Jewry”. Person apologizes and said they should have been more clear.…
21. Note that “Jewry” is a term used by some people to refer collectively to Jewish people.
22. This is some serious denial. There are absolutely POC who hate whites and white men in particular. If they are queer then they’ll hate the cis straight white men the most.
23. Of course I can’t cite specific evidence. A lot of the people who engage in hateful rhetoric against white men likely don’t hate -all- white men. They’re often performing. But the idea that there is any group of people whom no one hates is nonsense.
24. Somehow nearly everyone who has read and engaged with this thread didn’t point out to me that I misspelled Fortnite. For the record I do know how it’s spelled and had typed it correctly. This was an autocorrect fail that I didn't catch.

25. Just noticed that this thread was the subject of one of @timcast’s daily videos. I was aware of the phenomenon, but actually learned the term “churnalism” from one of his previous vids. Tim does a good job breaking down what went on with this story.

@Timcast 26. I’ve been looking for the proof that Picciolini says is “easy to find”. Will have an lengthy update later.
@Timcast 27. When people are making claims that others question, it should be incumbent on them to back up their claims, but since Picciolini won’t do that I went looking for the proof that he said is “easy to find”. Here’s what I found.
28. Methodology:
I ran this search using Google in two different browsers where I’m logged into different Google accounts. Went through 10 pages of results. Quality of results started to degrade later on. I probably could have stopped at 5.…+"video+games"
29. I also searched for:…+"video+games"
This got me a lot of the same results but a few new ones.
30 . It took me several attempts to refine the search to get better results. I had started with:
- white supremacist recruiting videos games
- white supremacist recruiting “videos games”
31. First two page of results were mostly stories generated from Picciolini’s reddit AMA. There were more results related to the AMA in the pages afterwards.
32. I decided not to run a search that excluded the past two months because I wanted to do basic searches. Most people who google for things don’t use advance search tools.
33. The results I’ll be sharing are news articles, blog posts, TV segments, a podcast, academic papers and books. Will have a wrap up at the end.
34. I didn’t click on every link, but I believe the following selections to be the best results I got from these searches. Note how old some of these results are.
35. Most tweets will have screenshots of every mention of “video games” at these links unless there are too many.

Starting off with the most detailed “proof” I turned up:

WWMT, CBS affiliate covering Kalamazoo, Michigan
“SPECIAL REPORT: Hate speech is infiltrating online gaming”…

Local news station uses the word of one gaming pastor to warn about white supremacist video game recruiting.
37. Here are videos from WWMT’s 9/27/17 report and a previous report with Dannison from 8/14/17:……
38. WWMT did talk to Philip Tan a research scientist and creative director at the MIT Game Lab, but they’re trying to link the presence of racist trash-talking with white supremacist recruitment.
39. Tan appears to be talking about the GAMBIT Hate Speech Project which as far as I can tell only produced a 12 minute video for PAX East, did not produce any academic papers, and does not make that link.……
40. (If I missed something, please send links.)

From the MIT Game Lab announcement:

"Many of our staff and colleagues will not be presenting their work at PAX East this weekend because they feel uncomfortable attending the expo this year."
41. WWMT also published what looks like an email Dannison sent to parents with advice for how to tell if their sons are being radicalized by white supremacists through online gaming.

“~~please feel free to share this~~”…
42. Is “Do you know which games your son is playing?” the new “It’s 10pm—do you know where your children are?”
43. Additional coverage of Dannison’s message about white supremacist recruiters in video games:…
44. This looks like a modern iteration of “stranger danger”. When I was growing up we were told to be wary of men in ice cream trucks.…
45. Note that Dannison doesn’t say in any of the coverage how he knows any of this or what makes him an expert on the subject of video game radicalization. The media just seems to accept that he knows what he’s talking about because he says he’s a gamer.
46. I am sure that for any family whose child (even as an adult) gets sucked into a white extremist group that the consequences may be devastating, but Dannison’s message has the feel of past Christian moral panics.
47. When I was growing up my pastor was warning about the evils of the musical Annie, the movie Gremlins, Dungeons & Dragons……
48. The best thing parents can do to prevent their children from being radicalized is to make sure that they are mentally healthy and supported and that they know how to think critically and don’t just do things to be liked.
49. Happy, connected, satisfied people don’t become extremists. Disenfranchised individuals are more susceptible to a compelling victimhood narrative.……
50. Okay, back to more search results…
(Linking to if there’s a paywall.)

(Not seeing a date)
Scary Mommy, a parenting website
“This Is How White Supremacy Comes To Your Neighborhood”…

The Daily, a New York Times podcast
“The Alt-Right and the Internet”

“How the alt-right’s sexism lures men into white supremacy”
Subhead: “The movement’s many online communities prey on male insecurity to advance a racist political agenda.”…

The Intercept
“Video: How White Nationalism Became Normal Online”…

“Steam, Your Kids’ Favorite Video Game App, Has A Big Nazi Problem”
Subhead: “It’s not the games you should worry about. It’s the social platform that allows hate to thrive.”…
“GamerGate to Trump: How video game culture blew everything up”
Subhead: “What began as a backlash to a debate about how video games portray women led to an internet culture that ultimately helped sweep Donald Trump into office. Really.”…
57. The CNET article doesn’t explicitly tie white supremacist recruiting to video games but it does link Gamergate and “hardcore gamers, coders” to white supremacists, online misogyny and Trump’s election.

The Christian Science Monitor
“Wisconsin shooting: how racist bands recruit for white supremacists”…

NOVA Next, PBS online publication
“Recovering from Hate”…

Longform article about Picciolini and other formers. Includes interviews with academics about their research.

San Francisco Chronicle
“Army's war game recruits kids”…
61. Article about “America’s Army”, a game published by the US Army for recruitment purposes. Also has one reference to Hezbollah and an unnamed “white supremacist group” creating video games to recruit.
62. The game was created by the group National Alliance and published by Resistance Records, a white power music label.……

Rock, Paper, Shotgun, UK-based gaming blog
“Germany relaxes ban on Nazi symbols in video games”…

Germany will now allow symbols from “unconstitutional organisations” if they “serve an artistic or educational purpose”.

“Gaming’s toxic men, explained”
Subhead: “Experts tackle the phenomenon of angry men, trolls, racists and misogynists who hover around the video game industry”

I’m not going to screenshot the entire article but this should provide an idea of the content.

Psychology Today
“Mom? Dad? Can I Have Lunch with a Nazi?”
Subhead: “Preparing your children and teens to deal with online hate.”…

Mother Jones
“Meet Silicon Valley’s Secretive Alt-Right Followers”…

Eugene Weekly
“I Married A White Supremacist”
Subhead: “How my husband went down the rabbit hole of Neo-Nazism”…
68. An anonymous essay from a woman who says her husband was sucked into neo-Nazism and then recruited young, angry men with Asperger’s and mental illnesses.

WorkingForChange, Conservative Watch column
“Videots delight”…

Not going to screenshot whole article but this is the most informative section. Took me 7.5 hours to find this.

“What Makes a Jihadist? A Nazi? The Science of Extremism”…

ADL report
"Racist Groups Use Computer Gaming to Promote Hate"
More info here:…

“Games Elevate Hate to Next Level”…

New York Times op-ed
"Neo-Nazis? No, Nerds"

VICE Canada
“How Canada’s Biggest Alt-Right Podcast Host Went from Gamer to Neo-Nazi”
Subhead: “VICE Canada unveiled the voice behind one of the most popular and enduring white nationalist podcasts in North America.”…
75. Profile of a Canadian cosplayer who became a Neo-Nazi. There’s nothing explicit about video games & recruiting but he seems to have spent most of his time online, including in gaming communities.

ABC News
“Racists Produce High-Tech Hate Games”…

“Inside Atomwaffen As It Celebrates a Member for Allegedly Killing a Gay Jewish College Student”…

CBS News
“Hate music important forum for white supremacists”…

“Snowden leak examines gaming as a terrorist propaganda and training tool”…

“National Socialist Movement Recruits Young Children”…

Kansas City infoZine, digital magazine
“Anti-Hispanic Video Games Spread on Internet”

SPLC press release published as a news article.

“The Alt-Right is Killing People”…

“Weekend Read: When calling yourself a fascist is "edgy””…

(No date - webpage)
MediaSmarts, Canadian digital & media literacy non-profit
“Deconstructing Online Hate”…

I didn’t find this until I’d been searching for 7.5 hours.

Te Kura Kete Aronui
“The Psychology of Heavy Metal Communities and White Supremacy”
by Dave Snell & Darrin Hodgetts, Psychology, University of Waikato, NZ

86. This paper actually looks fascinating. It “explores the appropriation of aspects of Heavy Metal subcultures by white supremacists”.

First Monday, “monthly peer-reviewed open access academic journal covering research on the Internet” (Wikipedia)
“Recruitment by extremist groups on the Internet”

by Beverly Ray and George E. Marsh II, Instructional Leadership and Instructional Technology program at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

2001 was before the rise of online multiplayer gaming but they do say that white supremacists were making their own games although recruiting efforts were at the time “not well organized and are more reactive than aggressive”.
90. Ray & Marsh’s findings are interesting though hard to know how relevant they are 17 years later.

Criminal Justice Studies
“Extremism on the World Wide Web: a research review” (paywalled)
by W. Chris Hale, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice & Program Director at Louisiana State University Shreveport
92. “Video games” does not appear in the abstract but it turned up in the Google preview.

January 2010
Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture
“Skinhead Super Mario Brothers: An Examination of Racist and Violent Games on White Supremacist Web Sites”

by Andrew Selepak, Director of the Master of Arts in Mass Communication Program with a specialization in Social Media, College of Journalism and Communications, University of Florida
95. Pdf of paper:…

The paper is 47 pages so I’m only including a screenshot of the abstract.

“Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth About Violent Video Games and What Parents Can Do”
by Lawrence Kutner & Cheryl Olson…

“Right-Wing Resurgence: How a Domestic Terrorist Threat is Being Ignored”
by Daryl Johnson…

“Beyond Hate: White Power and Popular Culture”
by C. Richard King & David J. Leonard…
99. After researching for just under 8 hours, I disagree with Picciolini’s assertion that the proof is “easy to find” and I’m someone with above average research skills.
100. I was unable to find concrete proof that white extremists use Fortnite, Minecraft, and Call of Duty to recruit. That doesn’t mean the proof is not out there, it just means that I couldn’t find any.

101. I think part of the problem is that I was searching for proof that may not exist on the open web.
102. I did do some quick searches at Stormfront for “video games”, “Fortnite”, “Minecraft” & “Call of Duty, but didn’t dig into the threads.
103. Here are screenshots of the search results. I don’t want to give them traffic so not linking but feel free to do your own research. These thread titles don’t give the impression that the posts are going to be about recruitment.
104. Most articles I turned up had just a passing reference to video game recruitment. Most of the links I shared above were referencing video games CREATED by white supremacists.
105. Rev. Dannison was the only one who went in depth about the threat of recruitment on commercial online multiplayer platforms, but he did so without citing sources.
106. I did find evidence that white extremist groups have a history of publishing their own video games as recruitment tools (something I was already aware of).
107. What I couldn’t find were any studies saying that self-published white extremist games are effective recruitment tools or how much of a threat the existence of white extremists within commercial gaming is.
108. How many millions of young men (& women & non-binary people) play video games around the world? What percentage of them are radicalized by any extremist group through video games?
109. None of what I found constitutes proof of the *specific* claims that Picciolini made in his AMA.
110. But this is much like the claims he has made about Sam Harris, Jordan Peterson, Stefan Molyneux, and James Damore.
111. He makes vague, overly broad, or incorrect statements and when asked for specifics or called out on errors, will insist that what he has said is true because of other vaguely related “proof”.
112. I’m going to need a lot more proof than a handful of media articles to believe this is a widespread problem. Where is the research?
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