Social Media

Telegram fails to crack down on Australian neo-Nazi account

A man is seen allegedly assaulting a black Channel Nine security guard in footage he uploaded. Source: The Feed

A Neo-Nazi has gained thousands of followers after uploading a video of himself punching a black security guard. Experts say Telegram must do more to purge far-right extremism from its app.

Following the siege of the US Capitol, encrypted messaging app, Telegram, purged dozens of 'violent' accounts that had called for the attack, including some Neo-Nazi channels. 

But closer to home, an Australian Neo-Nazi continues to post white supremacist rants on his Telegram channel and more recently, a video of himself allegedly assaulting a Channel Nine employee.

The alleged assault occurred ahead of the airing of a segment by A Current Affair last night. The investigation interviewed experts about “homegrown extremists” and featured the man and his organisation.

According to independent researcher, Dr Kaz Ross, the man's main channel has gained over two thousand followers since the airing of the 'A Current Affair' promo.

The man uploaded a video of himself inside Channel Nine’s Melbourne office ahead of the episode where he complained editors and producers would not see him to discuss the story.

He's since happily shared media reports detailing the attack onto his channel. The Feed has chosen not to name the man to avoid giving him further notoriety. 

Anti-Nazi protesters and police are seen in Halle, Germany.
Anti-Nazi protesters and police are seen in Halle, Germany.

In the footage, seen by The Feed, a security guard is captured calmly asking two men to stop filming before being told by the cameraman: “dance monkey, dance”.

The man then punches the security guard in the face multiple times before wrestling him to the ground. 

On Wednesday morning, a 27-year-old man was charged with affray, recklessly causing [sic] injury and unlawful assault. Police said he will appear at Melbourne Magistrates Court in July, while a 21-year-old has been released on bail pending "further inquiries."

The victim was transported to hospital with injuries, according to police.

In a video posted to his channel, the man claimed he had defended the cameraman after the security guard grabbed him by the throat. The man’s version of events is not captured in the footage he uploaded onto Telegram.

Dr Kaz Ross said footage of the incident has already been “memeified” by the man’s supporters.

“I mean, his Telegram channel went from practically nothing. And as soon as he got some media attention, it doubled,” Dr Ross said.

“Any kind of publicity online is good for him. To us, it might look bad or damaging but the shocking violence from yesterday has already been turned into a whole lot of hero memes by his followers.”

A mural painted by artist Kenny Altidor depicting George Floyd is unveiled on a sidewall of CTown Supermarket on July 13, 2020 in New York City.

One deeply offensive meme, seen by The Feed, shows the security guard's face photoshopped onto an image of African American man George Floyd. In the edited image, the alleged perpetrator is portrayed as the policeman, kneeling on the neck of the security guard.

Video footage of the alleged assault was edited by the man's supporters to show him punching the security guard over hip hop music with ‘Black Sun’ Neo-Nazi symbols covering the footage.

A second video was edited into a loop over the pop song ‘Mmmbop’ by Hanson and a third includes love heart eye emojis with Taylor Swift'sLove Story’ playing in the background.

Dr Ross said the man is one of few people on a global scale who is not “hiding behind pseudonyms online”.

The man received widespread media coverage for performing Neo-Nazi salutes and chanting “Klu Klux Klan” at a hike in The Grampians on January 26. 

This has enabled him to actively recruit members on the encrypted messaging app, as well as partaking in real-world organising, Dr Ross said.

“It’s about recruiting men, training them as a group and as a community, so they can rely on each other and depend on each other,” she said.

“He's diagnosed a problem in society - which of course we know doesn't exist - that the white race is under threat. And so, therefore, the 'answer' is to build a strong white community.”

A group of white men stand under a burning cross at Gariwerd, Victoria.
A group of white men affiliated with a Neo-Nazi organisation set fire to a cross in The Grampians.
Sydney Morning Herald

Telegram’s extremism issue 

Dr Julian Droogan is a senior lecturer in Security Studies and Criminology at Macquarie University.

He told The Feed he believes Telegram “certainly has a problem with extremism”.

Referring to the Christchurch terrorist attack, Dr Droogan believes there's a risk of active shooters emerging out of extreme echo chambers online.

Dr Droogan’s research has identified the threat of the shifting political discourse towards the right and the undermining of liberal democratic norms and values, which he believes, is the aim of Neo-Nazi groups.

Encrypted messaging app Telegram isn't doing enough to crack down on Neo-Nazis and the far-right, one expert says.

Dr Droogan said Telegram is facing a similar issue as it was years ago when supporters of the Islamic State moved to its encrypted app when they were deplatformed from social media sites. 

He said Telegram eventually worked to remove some of these groups from the app but is now “overrun” with far-right extremists.

“Telegram has a very strong libertarian philosophy. That makes it more difficult in the context of far-right extremists,” he said.

“It’s difficult for Telegram, which is libertarian, to judge at what point an idea and language is beyond social norms.”

Dr Droogan said the benchmark for banning accounts and channels should be when groups and individuals advocate violence and use extremely hateful language.

Another challenge for the encrypted messaging app is the self-censoring of violent individuals, Dr Droogan said.

“If they are violent and revolutionary in nature, they're always very careful not to publicly proclaim that in the public side, on the front page of Telegram,” Dr Droogan said.

“They might leave that to the encrypted chats,” he added.

“That's the danger that people can be brought into the public space of Telegram and then can go into spaces where there may be more of a violent radicalisation process at play.”

ASIO boss Mike Burgess warns Neo-Nazis are among the nation's most challenging security matters.
ASIO boss Mike Burgess has warned Neo-Nazis are among the nation's most challenging security matters.
AAP/Getty Images

Earlier this year, Telegram confirmed it had nuked several accounts for advocating violence in relation to the siege of the US capitol.

"Our moderators are reviewing an increased number of reports related to public posts with calls to violence, which are expressly forbidden by our Terms of Service," Telegram spokesperson, Remi Vaughn, told CNN

Mr Vaughn said Telegram welcomes "peaceful discussion and peaceful protests" but routinely removes "publicly available content that contains direct calls to violence."

The Feed contacted Telegram for comment but did not hear back by deadline.