A YouTuber who racked up hundreds of thousands of views pushing extreme conspiracy theories like QAnon, Pizzagate, and Flat Eartherism was arrested last week for allegedly threatening to massacre YouTube employees.
William Douglas, 35, was charged with cyberstalking and making threats after he was cuffed last Thursday by the FBI. The feds traced a series of death threats he made via social media back to his rural Oregon home, according to a criminal complaint. The threats came from a series of social media profiles where he ranted about fringe-right conspiracy theories and claimed YouTube was censoring him. In a still-live tweet from August, Douglas promoted a video promoting Nasim Aghdam, a YouTuber who opened fire on the company’s headquarters in April over the belief that her videos weren’t getting enough views.
In hundreds of videos, totalling hundreds of thousands of views, Douglas ranted about the New World Order, reptilians, government mind control, and Flat Earth theory. Recent videos also focused on right-wing conspiracies including QAnon, a ridiculous theory that falsely claims President Donald Trump is not actually under investigation, but that he is in fact investigating virtually every prominent Democrat and Hollywood figure for Satanic child sex-trafficking.
He even named his WiFi network after a related conspiracy theory.
The blog Contemptor previously noted that shortly into one of his QAnon videos, a message popped onto Douglas’s screen: “Connected to Wi-Fi network #investigatepizzagate”. That suggests Douglas named his home Wi-Fi network after the conspiracy theory that falsely claims Clinton allies are conducting child sex trafficking in the basement of a Washington, D.C. pizza restaurant.
But despite racking up more than 400,000 views on his videos in fewer than two years, Douglas claimed YouTube was censoring him.
“YouTube Is Censoring This Video Sound Analysis,” claims one of his video titles, about a Chicago murder that has become central to bizarre conspiracies about organ theft. The clip has more than 27,000 views. “I AM LIVE PLEASE COME WATCH IM CENSORED AS FUQ,” claims another recent livestream title. The video is still available on his YouTube page.
Right-wing personalities have rallied around fears of “censorship” by social media companies as Silicon Valley wrestles with how to moderate abuse and misinformation on their platforms. Some of those fears are unfounded. Recent studies have revealed that conservatives actually have a larger Facebook platform than liberals, and that the company shows no political bias against conservatives.
Other figures on the fringe right, like Infowars founder Alex Jones, have cried censorship when tech companies deleted their channels. Jones, among others, was banned for violating the companies’ terms against hate speech or incitement to violence.
Still, those censorship worries have metastasized to a broader group of conspiracy vloggers. In early April, YouTuber Nasim Aghdam stormed the company’s California headquarters with a gun, convinced the company was blocking views to her videos and throttling her ad revenue. (Other YouTubers had lodged similar complaints about a new YouTube advertising policy, indicating that the issue was widespread and not an attack on Aghdam, specifically.)
Aghdam opened fire on YouTube employees, wounding three, before killing herself. Her videos, particularly surreal clips of her dancing in leotards, became a meme on the right.
On August 11, Douglas tweeted a video mashup of Agdham dancing. The following week, he started threatening the company.
“Return my channel you low life as Sholes before someone else comes and shoots more of your employees you fucks,” he tweeted August 23, according to a criminal complaint.
“FuCK you @youtube im few hours away and if you are just going to ignore me try ignoring my gun you fucks … no more warning expect massive casualties … I would kill the 100 YouTube employees if givent he change”.
In a now-deleted September 8 tweet, included in the complaint, Douglas wrote “Hey whydo you guys keep ignoring me would it be better if I leave you with no other options like yourleaving me what your doing us ridiculous I'm beyond pissed at you @youtube so I wonder how Ishould deal with this frustration?"
In a video from the same day, he threatened to “visit” YouTube’s California headquarters. Elsewhere, he accused YouTube of being a government-run organization and said he would establish a donut restaurant called “Revolutionary Donut” in California. (Donuts are a recurring element of the Pizzagate conspiracy, particularly in Douglas’s home state of Oregon, where Pizzagate peddlers have falsely accused a popular donut shop of being a child sex-trafficking hub.)
On September 17, he allegedly threatened YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki. “Susan I'm coming for you today,” he wrote, according to the complaint. “#pray."
FBI agents soon traced his IP address to his Oregon home, and arrested him without incident outside a convenience store. The store is likely the same store that has featured in one of Douglas’s past videos, when he filmed the aftermath of a shooting and made local news.