Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Germany: WhatsApp Has Become A Hotbed For Spreading Nazi Propaganda

Via Buzzfeed News:
German WhatsApp users are spreading far-right propaganda through the use of stickers and chain letters, and the company is doing little to nothing to stop it, despite local laws forbidding the use of Nazi imagery.

In nine WhatsApp groups that BuzzFeed News has observed since October, tens of thousands of messages have been sent among its far-right participants. Among them have been symbols glorifying the Third Reich and Adolf Hitler, deeply anti-Semitic images created using WhatsApp’s “sticker” function, and messages seeking to incite violence and threats against leftists or refugees.

The groups have names like "The German Storm" and "Ku Klux Klan International.” At times, between 90 and 250 people have been members of the groups, close to the maximum size allowed by WhatsApp.

In October last year, WhatsApp introduced the so-called sticker function in Germany, which lets users choose from premade images to attach to their chats with the option to make their own. The Jewish Forum for Democracy and Against Anti-Semitism, a Berlin-based advocacy group, quickly drew attention to the surge in Nazi-themed stickers. "As soon as WhatsApp made it possible to create and use stickers, right-wing extremists flood their group chats with Nazi symbolism,” the group wrote in October, asking the platform how this could be prevented in the future.

"These anti-Semitic stickers are unacceptable and we do not want them on WhatsApp,” a WhatsApp spokesperson wrote in an email to BuzzFeed News last November. “We strongly condemn this hate. If a user receives a sticker with illegal content, we ask them to report it to WhatsApp."

But when BuzzFeed News followed up this month to ask WhatsApp how many reports of possibly illegal content it's received since then, the company declined to respond to specific questions.

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