Blockchain-based video platform attracting far-right users uses hate-site infrastructure
Site claiming to welcome “all voices”
Site claiming to welcome “all voices” brought on developer of platform used by racially motivated extremists
By Jared Holt
Jeremey Kauffman, CEO of the blockchain-driven video site Odysee, claimed in an interview last year that he wanted to build a platform for “all voices.” Months later, his site hired a developer who built a streaming service that gave harbor to a slew of white supremacists.
Odysee hired a developer going by the names “Dispatch” and “Xander” online after he created a video streaming service called Bitwave, which has served a plethora of extremist content creators banned from mainstream platforms for peddling racial hate, including unabashed neo-Nazis. Extremist content is so prevalent on Bitwave that the top Google site links for the platform contain racist language and take would-be visitors straight to white supremacist content creators.
Elon University computer science professor and online extremism researcher Megan Squire made note of the developer’s hire on Twitter in March 2021, pointing out that Odysee was using Bitwave’s infrastructure to support its live video hosting. Squire also noticed that shortly after the developer joined Odysee, Bitwave removed from its home page a warrant canary, which notifies users when a site is served with a subpoena.
First, and most embarrassingly, Odysee is trying to act like they rolled their own livestreaming tech solution. Fact is, they seem to have just hired the programmer for Bitwave (goes by Dispatch/Xander) & are running all their livestreams through the Bitwave[.]tv infrastructure. pic.twitter.com/y6n0BBeRzN
— Megan Squire (@MeganSquire0) March 27, 2021
The developer has stated that he works with Odysee on his Twitter account, where he has also announced and teased updates for the platform. His Github profile reveals numerous development updates to his Bitwave product related to Odysee platform integration. Within these updates, some media assets for Odysee’s platform, including a promotional video for the site, are found hosted on Bitwave’s content delivery network (CDN). (While reviewing Bitwave’s CDN, the DFRLab came across a clip of video footage from the 2019 white supremacist mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand, on its servers.)
The Anti-Defamation League mentioned Bitwave in a November report as a place online where white supremacist streamer Paul Miller, who operated online under the moniker “Gypsy Crusader,” published broadcasts of himself unloading racial hate and displaying a gun to strangers, including children, on the randomized video chat service Omegle. Miller was arrested by the FBI on charges of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm earlier this year. Another streamer, based in the United Kingdom and operating under the username “codcomedytj,” streamed similar content on Bitwave. He often wore blackface and attacked random Omegle users, including children, with racial slurs. Earlier this year, he was arrested while broadcasting live on video.
Odysee is built by the company responsible for the LBRY blockchain protocol, which is currently being sued by the U.S. Security and Exchanges Commission. The site utilizes some of the same technology to enable content to exist on the site without being hosted on centralized servers, differing itself from a competing site like YouTube.
The Guardian reported that in late April 2021, Julian Chandra, vice president for growth at LBRY, accidentally sent guidance against moderating white supremacist content on its platform to a user who had complained to the company about its presence.
“Also just being a white nationalist or nazi isn’t grounds for removal,” Chandra wrote in the email. “Are you nazi that makes videos about the superiority of the white race? That is NOT grounds for removal. If you’re on the other hand, dehumanizing a race or doing things against our guidelines, that is grounds for removal.”
Odysee’s community guidelines have been recently updated to elaborate on the platform’s rules against “content or posts that incite hatred or violence.” An archive of the same community guidelines page captured in March does contains as much explanation of its rule against hate speech.
The handful of extremist content creators who have migrated to Odysee follow a larger trend of extremist groups turning to peer-to-peer (P2P) technology in wake of social media moderation and public scrutiny, as explained by data scientist Emmi Bevensee in “The Decentralized Web of Hate.” Prolific white supremacist movement figures have looked to Odysee to share propaganda, with the belief that, in Odysee, they have found a user-friendly platform that will not remove their content.
Jared Holt is Visiting Research Fellow with the Digital Forensic Research Lab.
Cite this case study:
Jared Holt, “Blockchain-based video platform attracting far-right users uses hate-site infrastructure,” Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab), May 20, 2021, https://medium.com/dfrlab/blockchain-based-video-platform-attracting-far-right-users-uses-hate-site-infrastructure-a3cbed5c7388.
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