Instagram Is the Alt-Right’s New Favorite Haven
Instagram hosts accounts from prominent right-wingers who have already been banned from Twitter and Facebook.
Alt-right social network Gab shuttered itself over the weekend after one of its users allegedly killed 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue and announced the attack on the site. But many far-right personalities still have access to a much bigger online home: Instagram.
As other social networks crack down on right-wing extremists, Instagram has become a surprising refuge for far-right figures who have somehow managed to avoid being banned from that site as well. Perhaps most remarkably, at least one of the right-wing figures present on Instagram has already been jettisoned from the social network’s own parent company, Facebook.
Tech giants like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter made headlines this year when they finally banned Infowars chief Alex Jones after years of him promoting dangerous conspiracy theories. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg reportedly debated the decision to ban Jones’ pages intensely, before ultimately barring him and Infowars from the site (Jones has retained a personal account on Facebook).
Jones hasn’t toned it down on Instagram, which appears to be his last major social network outlet after Twitter suspended a number of accounts Infowars was using to evade the ban this month. In one post, Jones compares Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) to a series of ticks.
Instagram spokeswoman Stephanie Noon told The Daily Beast that the site’s rules on banning accounts are similar to Facebook’s.
“Whether an account is removed or not depends on the severity of the violation and a person’s history on Instagram, including previous removals,” Noon wrote in an email. “For example, some content is so bad that posting it just once means we would remove the account immediately. In the case of other violations, we may warn someone the first time they break our Community Guidelines. If they continue, we may remove the account altogether.”
Instagram also hosts anti-Semitic content hosted by prominent conservatives.
Right-wing comedian Owen Benjamin, who achieved some prominence on the right for stand-up routines attacking political correctness, was kicked off Twitter earlier this year. But Benjamin still has an account on Instagram, where he posts anti-Semitic memes to his more than 50,000 followers. On Oct. 20, Benjamin posted an image featuring a Jewish man saying “Shut it down”—a reference to an anti-Semitic meme about Jews controlling the world called “Da goyim know / shut it down.”
“Even the Jews can’t be happy about all of this!” Benjamin wrote.
Other right-wing figures banned from Twitter have turned to Instagram as a place to promote violence.
Twitter banned Gavin McInnes, the founder of the far-right Proud Boys group, in August. But McInnes still has his Instagram account and more than 150,000 followers on the site.
McInnes used his account to draw up publicity for his infamous Oct. 12 speech at a New York Republican club, which ended with his Proud Boy followers brawling in the street with left-wing activists.
To promote his speech, which celebrated the decades-old murder of a Japanese socialist, McInnes posted pictures of himself on Instagram in racist “Asian eyes” glasses. In the aftermath of the event, McInnes—who recently made his account private—posted a picture of the Japanese assassination with a Nike slogan superimposed over it: “Just do it.”
McInnes isn’t the only right-wing personality using Instagram to encourage political violence. Last week, far-right figure Milo Yiannopoulos, who was banned from Twitter in 2016, lamented on Instagram that the mail bombs sent to CNN and top Democrats didn’t go off. Yiannopoulos also wrote that he found it “sad” and “disgusting” that this publication, The Daily Beast, didn’t receive a bomb.
Instagram initially declined to delete Yiannopoulos’s post, saying it didn’t violate their “Community Standards.” The social giant eventually deleted the post after The Daily Beast reported on it.