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Conspiracy theorist vlogger arraigned for death threats to YouTube employees

Conspiracy theorist vlogger arraigned for death threats to YouTube employees


William Gregory Douglas, 35, is being charged with cyberstalking and transmitting threats via interstate commerce

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Last week, the FBI arrested William Gregory Douglas, 35, outside of an Oregon convenience store after he threatened to kill YouTube employees, including its CEO, Susan Wojcicki. Douglas was arraigned Monday and made his first appearance in court, AP reported yesterday. He’s being charged with cyberstalking and transmitting threats in interstate commerce.

Douglas — an ardent believer in Pizzagate, among other right-wing conspiracy theories — tweeted a number of death threats against YouTube and its employees, beginning August 23rd, after his channel was deleted by the site’s administrators. (It’s unclear why the first channel was removed, though a new channel, which Douglas created in January and which TubeFilter reports has apparently been demonetized, remains active.) Per the FBI:

The criminal complaint alleges that Douglas posted a series of tweets that included language such as, “I would kill the 100 YouTube employees,” “you want a bigger mass casualty aka shooting let’s see what I can do,” and “return my channel you low life Sholes before someone else comes and shoots more of your employees.” On September 17, 2018, LiamXmaiLRevolutionX posted a message to @SusanWojcicki: “Susan I’m coming for you today #pray.”

The shooting Douglas refers to in those now-deleted tweets happened in April at YouTube’s offices in San Bruno, CA, when a disgruntled YouTube creator named Nasim Aghdam visited the offices and opened fire with a handgun. She wounded three employees and then killed herself.

Before the shooting, Aghdam, like Douglas, had repeatedly complained that YouTube had ruined her life by demonetizing her videos and censoring them, she felt, unfairly. While there’s no evidence YouTube had censored her, the possibility loomed large enough in Aghdam’s mind that she attempted to commit a mass shooting. The belief that YouTube suppresses radical views has become widespread among right-wingers and conspiracy theorists on YouTube, in part because YouTube’s standards for policing their content are quite opaque. A recent study published by the Data & Society Research Institute reports the opposite is true: YouTube’s algorithms tend to encourage the consumption of extremist content, rather than censor it.

In that light, it makes sense that a conspiracy theorist like Douglas might similarly believe he had been secretly censored by YouTube. On his new channel, Douglas describes himself as leading “a revolution of the mind”:

I am the descendant of a very powerful deep state player and JA And DB are sanctioned Non-terrestrial FuQ Tards It’s sanctioned, allowed, these exotic monsters have immunity. There are way wore monsters than what we have been shown and the “cp” on JA site is just a smoked herring for us to say see see... But never the less sanction diplomatically immune figures are allowed to do as they please yes they are all on it together.

Douglas’s pre-trial hearing is slated for October 8th; he’ll be held without bail until then.