SAN DIEGO (KGTV) – As the gunman in Saturday’s shooting rampage in Buffalo navigated through the parking lot of the Tops supermarket towards the unsuspecting shoppers and employees inside, he live-streamed the attack on Twitch.
Twitch is one of several platforms that allow streamers to collect donations for their content. Far-right extremists have leveraged such platforms to propagate and profit from their hate, according to research by Southern Poverty Law Center senior fellow Dr. Megan Squire.
“It's kind of the brave new world of internet extremist fundraising really,” Dr. Squire said.
In 2020, she spent months tracking dozens of hate streamers and donors on a platform called DLive. She chose DLive because it publishes all of its financial transactions, unlike larger competitors such as YouTube and Twitch which keep such data secret.
“They stream Monday through Friday, they have a work schedule just like other people,” Squire said.
According to her research, the top hate streamers on DLive made more than $10,000 a month – well over $100,000 per year.
“Some days, they would pull down $2,000, $3,000, $4,000 a day,” she said. “And that's just the streaming ecosystem. We can't forget about taking donations in other ways, like through cryptocurrencies. We've tracked multiple people that pulled down millions of dollars sometimes in a weekend.”
A common talking point in the far-right streaming ecosystem is the Great Replacement Theory, something that is emphasized throughout a 180-page manifesto attributed to accused Buffalo shooter Payton Gendron.
Adherents to the most extreme version of Replacement Theory believe white people are being slowly replaced by minorities at the behest of a Jewish cabal, Squire said. “That's obviously false, untrue, and hateful in many ways.”
Many of the large platforms like YouTube have made major strides in banning extremist users and content, Squire said. DLive banned many streamers after the January 6th attack. Twitch said it removed the live stream video of the violence in Buffalo within two minutes of the violence.
But Dr. Squire said it’s a tough problem to solve when extremists can make so much cash espousing hate online.