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It was disturbingly easy for ADL’s researchers to locate Steam users who espouse extremist beliefs, using language associated with white supremacist ideology and subcultures, including key terms, common numeric hate symbols and acronyms.
In a non-exhaustive selective sample of platform users we were able to identify nearly 200 unique Steam accounts that embraced and propagated Nazi and/or white supremacist ideology. The majority of these profiles trafficked in blatant white supremacist belief evidenced in their screen names, bio descriptions, profile pictures and comments; others either incorporated into their profiles Nazi imagery such as SS bolts and Nazi totenkopfs, or death’s heads, glorified prominent Nazi figures or fantasized about the 4th Reich. And a minority of the profiles displayed deeply antisemitic elements and/or embraced violence against Jews, using terms including “Gas the Jew” and “Smash Jew scum.” The final category includes a subset of users who posted memes involving variations of Pepe the Frog, a cartoon character appropriated by the white supremacist movement, in a context that was specifically racist, antisemitic or otherwise bigoted.These elements and their continued presence on Steam also signal an acceptance of hateful and racist rhetoric and may encourage others to share similar content.
Video games have long focused on World War II, modern history’s largest and deadliest armed conflict, beginning with Wolfenstein 3D, the first massively popular first-person shooter game, through today’s popular Battlefield game series, among others. Interest in this historical period is, of course, not uncommon, or inherently hateful or racist, but these Steam games do appear to attract users who glorify the Nazi Party, Waffen SS soldiers and prominent Nazi figures, especially Adolf Hitler.
For example, on August 9, 2018, Steam user Neirons posted a message encouraging violence three months prior to the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, when members of the Nazi Party and their supporters destroyed nearly 8,000 Jewish-owned businesses and homes across Germany. The user wrote, “Happy KrASStallnacht [sic] don't forget to smash some ♥♥♥ on the night of the broken glASS [sic]. …Send this to 6 gorrillion [sic] of the sluttiest goyim you know or you'll go through a dry spell that'll be so rough that it'll literally be another Shoah.” The term “gorrillion” is popular term among white supremacists used to trivialize the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust.
Another user, Anwärter_88, provides a link to a pro-Hitler propaganda film about the “greatest story never told.” The 88 in his username is a reference to the white supremacist numerical code for Heil Hitler. One user chose the screenname of 1488 Hi Hieltler. The 1488 is a common white supremacist numerical code; 88 references “HH,” the eighth letter of the alphabet (for Heil Hitler), and 14 is a reference to the white supremacist 14 Words: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.” This same user earned the Steam title of “community ambassador,” a badge that demonstrates a level of engagement on Steam.
Memes and White Supremacist Subculture
Bigoted humor and irony are hallmarks of the emerging virtual counterculture that promotes radical, extreme and violent views as cool and/or humorous. In that vein, it’s not uncommon to find references on Steam to white supremacist memes, common vernacular or other trappings of this white supremacist subculture. A significant number of Steam profiles feature Pepe the Frog, a popular Internet meme that was hijacked by the alt right, in clearly white supremacist contexts. For example, user “Agent Pepe Kekson” writes in his bio: “Kekson—Pepe Kekson, Agent 1488, With a License to Troll."
“Kek” is a fabricated religion which worships Pepe the Frog. Another user, Honkler, named after a clown version of Pepe, included an animated image of a white supremacist variation of the sonnenrad in his artwork showcase.
Even Steam users that are not explicitly identifiable as extremists often post antisemitic or extremist imagery, including swastikas, graphics of the happy merchant meme (an antisemitic depiction of a Jewish man with heavily stereotyped facial features), or more violent images such as a knife through a Jewish star.
Racist and antisemitic chain messagesencourage other Steam users to spread the hate. In one example, a graphic of a knife with a swastika on it includes the quote, “put this on your friends [sic] profile to protect them against [niggers] and Jews 14/88 WPWW.” The acronym WPWW, commonly used by white supremacists, stands for “White Pride Worldwide.” In another, a Christmas scene includes the quote “MERRY CHRISTMAS I HATE JEWS.” A third example, from the Steam comments section, reads, “IF U WERE KILLED TOMORROW, I WOULNDT GO 2 UR FUNERAL CUZ ID B IN JAIL 4 JEWIN DA MOTHA FUKR THAT KILLED U! WE TRUE SCHLOMOS WE JEW TOGETHER WE GET HOLOCAUSTED TOGETHER send this SHEKEL to everyone you care about including me if you care. C how many times you get this, if you get 6,000,000 your [sic] A TRUE SCHLOMO.”
Glorification of Killers
Glorification of infamous extremist murderers abounds on Steam, with users overtly praising everyone from Adolf Hitler to Anders Breivik, a Norwegian white supremacist who killed 77 people, to Dylann Roof, who murdered nine African Americans participating in a prayer group in a church in Charleston, South Carolina church, to Ted Kaczynski, otherwise known as the Unabomber. Others reference extremist murders more obliquely, including Steam user Kilroy, who posted Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Tree of Life synagogue shooter Robert Bowers’ final Gab post, “Screw your optics.”
Following the 2019 mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, a number of Steam users praised shooter Brenton Tarrant. A profile using Tarrant’s alleged Steam username, “Commander Rockwell,” posted messages celebrating his massacre. One user, referencing killing Muslims, posted, “I saw you dominate in kebab removing simulator and I wanted to say well done.” Another user wrote, "Blessed be Saint Tarrant." A third user, who has been awarded a Steam community ambassador badge, wrote, “Thank you for your service, love from New Zealand.” Yet another user opted for username SupremeGentleman88, a combined reference to white supremacist ideology and incel Elliot Rodger, who killed six people in Santa Barbara, California in 2014.
Extremists often use gaming terminology in conversations around violence. Violent perpetrators and their adherents refer to mass shootings in terms of getting “high scores.” Stephan Balliet, who launched a (failed) attack on a synagogue in Halle, Germany on Yom Kippur 2019, included a gaming style list of “achievements” in his manifesto. Both the Halle perpetrator and Tarrant livestreamed their attacks on religious communities, ensuring their violence went viral. The footage from their GoPro devices, strapped to the shooters’ heads, mimics first-person shooter games that simulate real-world weapons-based combat scenes.
Notable Extremists on Steam
A number of extremist leaders and mass killers have spent numerous hours on Steam. As stated above, Tarrant, the Christchurch mosques shooter, reportedly had a Steam profile under the username Commander Rockwell. The username expresses admiration for George Lincoln Rockwell, founder of the American Nazi Party. Steam removed the profile in question in March 2019, immediately after the Christchurch attacks.
[ Source, Kotaku.com]
According to information acquired on confidential Wire chats, the former leader of Feuerkrieg Division used the Steam profile username although they previously played under the names n1gg3rk1ll3r and Siege (a reference to a collection of noxious essays written by U.S.-based neo-Nazi James Mason). In their bio, this individual references Estonian Nazi leader Oskar Ruut and quotes Nazi German propagandist Joseph Goebbels and Nazi SS leader Heinrich Himmler, among others. This Steam account earned a “Community Ambassador” badge and frequently showed up as a player in Fallout -- a popular, mainstream game series developed by Bethesda Softworks.
On February 10, 2020, U.S. Army Specialist Jarrett William Smith pleaded guilty to unlawfully distributing instructions for making explosive devices over social media. At the time of his arrest, Smith was associated with the neo-Nazi organization Feuerkrieg Division, using the screenname of Anti-Kosmik on the encrypted Wire chats. He allegedly used the same name on Steam, where his bio reads, “Anti-Cosmic misanthrope. Interests include black metal, Current 218, anything that goes bang or boom, alcohol, etc. Veder-Gal Tiekals Somdus Azerate.” The phrase is a reference to the lyrics of the black metal band, Dissection, whose main songwriter was convicted of being an accessory in Sweden’s infamous 1997 Keillers Park murder of a gay Algerian national. Smith’s Instagram bio includes lyrics from the same song: “Anti-cosmic bringer of the end.”
In encrypted communications on Wire, Anti-Kosmik posted a screenshot from a video called Hatred, an isometric shooter game in which players are mass-murdering villains, created by small, independent development studio Destructive Creations, and available exclusively on Steam. The screenshot indicates that Smith took on a Muslim persona and killed in an urban setting. He writes, “My playthrough as the Muslim.” The image shows a heavily armed perpetrator surrounded by corpses.
Later in the same chat, Anti-Kosmik suggests making a modification to the game, envisioning a Feuerkrieg Division protagonist who shoots police, accompanied by the words of James Mason, a well-known U.S.-based neo-Nazi. Anti-Kosmik adds, “The most baste [based] is of course playing as Hitler.”
Embroiled in controversy, Hatred was removed from the Steam Platform before it launched. However, Valve CEO Gabe Newell ordered it reinstated in December 2014, and it remains available on the platform as of this writing. As of April 2020, there are also rumors about the game being released on Nintendo Switch.
Although Steam has taken steps to remove some extremist elements, including the neo-Nazi Atomwaffen Division group, archived here, similar groups remain on the platform. Some have only a few members while others have hundreds. For example, one Steam group, founded February 28, 2018, is named Varg Virkernes Appreciation Club. Varg Vikernes is the stage name of a notorious neo-Nazi figure in the Norwegian black metal scene who was convicted of murder. Another Steam group called Read Siege by James Mason (RSJM) references the white supremacist essays as a blueprint for violent accelerationist action. Still another group, BOWLGANG, is named in honor of Dylann Roof’s haircut, which has become a symbol for some white supremacists. One of the group members, who goes by Ted Kaczynski Gaming, posted the following antisemitic poem mocking the Holocaust in the comments section of the group: “jewish [sic] man, take me by the hand, lead me to the land that you understand jewish [sic] man, the voyage to auschwitz [sic] is a real trip jewish [sic] man, the crust of a beard man imbibed by the gas Soaking [sic] up the gas of the shower jewish [sic] man…”
Extremist References to Steam on Iron March
Steam is being used by white supremacists, as evidenced by cross-platform references on other extremist sites. For example, on Iron March, a now-defunct fascist social networking platform, users mentioned Steam as an alternative platform for further communications.
Among many examples: Iron March user Starman asked another user to add him on Steam, so they could continue their conversation. Others on Iron March wanted to create neo-Nazi groups on Steam. On July 10, 2017, “Stribog” wrote to Steam user Ka7, “…there should be some kind of Iron March group on Steam for hells sake!” Referencing the Iron March founder, Ka7 responds, “I think Slavros has a group with a few others for his gaming channel but I'm not sure if it's public...”
In the Iron March chats, it is clear extremist groups used Steam to recruit possible members, especially Atomwaffen Division. One user, Staradder92, inquired about joining the neo-Nazi group and provided his Steam address to the recruiter.