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YouTube bans neo-Nazi channel after criticism over hate speech rules

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

After days of external pressure, YouTube has banned the channel of Atomwaffen, a neo-Nazi group tied to multiple killings. As Motherboard reported today, both Atomwaffen’s primary and backup YouTube channels have been banned for “multiple or severe violations of YouTube’s policy prohibiting hate speech,” according to a site message. The Daily Beast previously reported that YouTube planned to keep the videos online, simply demonetizing them and adding a warning about offensive content.

Atomwaffen was the subject of a recent in-depth report from ProPublica, which obtained chat logs praising a member for killing gay, Jewish college student Blaze Bernstein. In total, Atomwaffen is directly or indirectly linked to five murders, and one member was sentenced to five years in prison for stockpiling bomb-making materials. A former member told ProPublica that the group had recruited around 80 people across 23 states.

According to Motherboard and The Daily Beast, the YouTube channel featured armed members yelling a slogan that called for killing Jews. A spokesperson said that limiting the videos’ reach struck a “good balance” between allowing free expression and enforcing the site’s hate speech rules, which ban promoting violence toward or “inciting hatred” against specific races or religious groups. YouTube announced plans last year to limit the reach of videos that didn’t quite meet its definition of hate speech, but as its indecision over Atomwaffen shows, that’s a fuzzy line to draw.