How Anti-Feminism Influences Online Radicalization: The Broadsheet

The Broadsheet for June 10

YouTube and the yoga attack. Last week, under the leadership of CEO Susan Wojcicki, YouTube banned white supremacist and neo-Nazi content. The decision was a long time coming, following years of concern over the platform’s potential to spread harmful views.

This interactive New York Times story follows one man who fell under the spell of far-right YouTubers. It analyzes the 12,000 videos he watched since 2015, charting his path to far-right radicalization (and then back again).

One theme that kept coming up? Anti-feminism.

Videos that bemoaned the dangers of feminism and bashed feminists (or just women in general) were among the first that Caleb Cain watched as his viewing history inched toward conspiracy theories and graphic violence, enabled by YouTube’s algorithm that steers users toward more engaging content on their topics of choice—in this case, far-right commentary.

The findings tie into a Washington Post story that investigates how Scott Paul Beierle’s involvement in the “male supremacy” movement fueled his 2018 attack on a Tallahassee yoga studio. Beierle’s hatred of women predated his online presence, but his attack quickly became part of the lore of the “manosphere,” a term used by the Anti-Defamation League to describe the overlapping communities of men’s rights activists, so-called pick-up artists, and incels.

Taken together, the stories are a reminder of how serious anti-feminist rhetoric can be—either as a sign of danger or a stop on the path toward even more extreme radicalization.

Cain, the 26-year-old who shared his YouTube history with the New York Times, says he was “brainwashed” by the videos he watched.

YouTube, in a blog post announcing its recent policy changes, says: “We are committed to taking the steps needed to live up to this responsibility today, tomorrow and in the years to come.”

Emma Hinchliffe
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