When storming the Capitol, Trump supporters wave the flag of »Kekistan« - a symbol from a right-wing extremist forum subculture
Photo: Evelyn Hockstein / The Washington Post via Getty Images
"We love you, you are great," Donald Trump called to his followers in a tweeted video after they stormed the Capitol on Wednesday afternoon.
But although Twitter deletes the video shortly afterwards, Trump's supporters can spread the message elsewhere unhindered: in alternative social networks, whose big hour is just striking.
Platforms like Parler, Gab, TheDonald or 8kun have long since become an important alternative platform for right-wing and right-wing extremist Trump supporters.
What the big tech companies block, is particularly happy to pass on here.
The operators seem to allow almost all content, while law enforcement agencies do not seem to have the pages on their screen.
Days before the Capitol was stormed on January 6th, users were talking openly on Facebook and Twitter, but especially on the alternative platforms, that they were planning to do just that.
Some even discussed whether, and if so, which weapons they should bring.
Together with other right-wing extremist groups and militias, they got serious a little later - and moved from a little-noticed parallel internet universe onto the big world stage.
That the Washington police are now claiming that they "had no information about an attack on the Capitol" seems absurd, if a look at the networks were enough to find out about it.
It seems that the underestimated security authorities still understand the importance of the radical, but far-reaching scene of right-wing online networks.
These platforms work in a similar way to Facebook or Twitter, but the language is more uninhibited, often right-wing extremist, misogynistic and anti-Semitic.
Although the number of users is significantly lower than that of the large tech companies, the number of views here is now in the millions.
Nonetheless, for most people, it is sidelines of the Internet in which crazy conspiracy theories circulate and which, on the whole, can hardly be taken seriously.
Perhaps this explains why the storming of the Capitol was publicly announced and organized on the Internet and yet it was not prevented.
Identification mark for the initiated
Since Donald Trump won the US election in 2016, there has been a lot of discussion about the influence of Facebook, YouTube and Twitter on democracy: Are the major social networks fueling the radicalization of individual groups and citizens?
Do they ensure that extremist positions are particularly widespread and bring them to the center of society?
Four years later, the big sides are still criticized for lax interventions against agitation and calls for violence, but the situation has changed: Populists and extremists no longer necessarily need the big tech companies to deal with calls for violence, misinformation and dangerous conspiracy myths Network to reach an audience of millions.
A scene emerges that is evidently growing and that is taking more and more of the hate from the internet onto the street.
There she also reveals herself.
Many show where they come from: When the Capitol was rushed, various symbols of this network scene were repeatedly prominently seen.
Some of the attackers wear T-shirts or wave flags, like that of Kekistan - a symbol from a right-wing extremist forum subculture, based on the Nazi swastika flag.
The "Anons", who communicate anonymously in their forums, showed their faces in Washington and carried their "memes" from the net to the holy place of American democracy.
So the storm on the Capitol was also a storm of the online trolls.
They are still mostly identifying marks for the initiated;
As before, the general public is unlikely to associate much with these symbols.
But since the powerful images from Washington have been around the world, the symbols have also become more visible.
And the trolls from the internet niches can stage themselves and celebrate as what they always wanted to be: a force to be reckoned with.
But of whom does this power consist?
What happens in the networks and forums in which the ground was prepared for an attack on democracy online?
How does one react to the events of January 6th in the network niche - and where is this niche actually located?
An overview of the most important alternative platforms of the right-wing net scene in the USA:
The Donald: The Trump Fan Club
"TheDonald" has existed as a sub-forum of the social media platform Reddit since 2015.
The forum began as a kind of network collection movement of particularly militant Trump supporters, with the aim of supporting Trump's presidential campaign with slogans and memes.
Trump's now-killed campaign manager Brad Parscale once said he watches the subreddit regularly.
And Donald Trump himself repeatedly picked up pictures and statements that were first circulated in the forum and that made his opponents contemptuous.
The green-faced cartoon character "Pepe the Frog" is one of the central symbols of the followers of "TheDonald".
Originally, the symbol comes from more left circles, but supporters of right-wing groups like here at a pro-weapons demonstration in January 2020 have long since adopted it
Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images
In 2016, the year of the US election campaign, the site gained more than 100,000 followers.
Hate speech, racist misogynist and Islamophobic slogans were common among the very active users of the forum.
Dangerous conspiracy theories like "Pizzagate" were also shared among the Donaldists and spun on.
According to the "Pizzagate" myth, which has no factual basis, democratic politicians are supposed to cover or even actively run a pedophile ring in a pizzeria in Washington.
A supporter of the conspiracy attacked the pizzeria with a weapon in early December 2016, a few weeks after the US election.
Logo of the pizzeria that was attacked by a Pizzagate supporter
Photo: Jose Luis Magana / AP
Reddit initially imposed some sanctions in recent years, then banned the subreddit entirely in June 2020 - however, the moderators had long since started their own website.
They had taken precautions against the so-called "deplatforming" by Reddit, that is, the operator's step to withdraw their large platform from extremist users.
The deplatforming seems to have only partially damaged the site, it is probably already too centrally anchored in the right-wing online subculture.
In December 2020 alone, the site had over ten million hits, according to analytics services.
The Donald's supporters remain loyal to the president on their own website - to this day.
They recognize his defeat just as little as he does himself. "Come and be wild," has been the motto for weeks in the call for the "Stop the steal" protests in Washington.
Anyone who looked around the site in the first few days of January could watch the preparations for Epiphany, much of it took place openly and was visible to everyone.
Even days before the appointment there were concrete marching orders with fantasies about storming the Capitol.
A protester wears a "Pepe the Frog" mask during a protest against Corona measures in Washington state in May.
During the storming of the Capitol, attackers sang songs by a musician named after the cartoon character popular with TheDonald fans
Photo: Ted S. Warren / AP
The day after the attack on the Capitol, TheDonald did not show a uniform picture.
Apparently the role of the platform was too dangerous for the site's web host - he gave the creators 21 hours to delete all calls for violence.
The moderators communicated this to the users and were promptly insulted that they were "compromised".
So TheDonald may have to move on again soon, to another niche in the network.
Anyway, the first triumph over the supposed coup of the storm seems to evaporate.
Due to the negative repercussions, some speculate - of course completely without paper - that it could have been the work of agents provocateurs from the Antifa, for example.
Others assume - as is customary in these circles on almost every topic - George Soros had a hand in it.
But many still don't want to give in, on the contrary.
They see the shot "patriot" as one of them and as a martyr and continue to call out to the battle: "The first shot in the new revolution was fired by a government employee," writes one under the pseudonym "Joe Trump," "Live free or die." !!!!! ... it starts now !!!! «.
8kun: The QAnon headquarters
If TheDonald is the online forum of the militant and longtime Trump supporters, then QAnon is his young brother who is agitating even more confused and even more extremist.
Anyone who believes in the QAnon conspiracy myth is convinced that a secret elite rules the world.
In this worldview, politicians and democratic institutions are at least corrupt, in the worst case pedophile child murderers.
Only Trump is considered a savior by the supporters.
(Read more about the movement and its German supporters here.)
Attacker with QAnon sweater
Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP
The keyword for QAnon is a user who has been posting anonymously since 2017 and calls himself Q.
But Q's messages have long since taken on a life of their own and work like a hands-on conspiracy theory.
The central website where some of QAnon's most loyal followers gather and chat anonymously is called 8kun.
The pictures of the storm on the Capitol are enthusiastically commented on 8kun: “Q wanted us to storm the Capitol and we did it.
If Trump does not stay in office, then more people will have to die. ”For weeks, supporters of QAnon had chosen January 6 as a day of hope, on which Trump would prevent Joe Biden from taking office and secure his power.
Trump supporters with the Q symbol also showed up in front of the Capitol, a reference to the anonymous key word of the QAnon movement
Photo: Ted S. Warren / AP
Observers have long warned that QAnon is a threat to national security.
How real this danger is can also be seen in the support given by Q supporters in the storming of the Capitol.
Because there were some conspiracy theorists on the front line.
Videos can be seen how a man with the slogan "Trust the Plan", which is typical for the movement, harasses a black police officer and leads a group of intruders deeper and deeper into the building.
The woman who succumbed to her gunshot wounds was probably part of the movement's erroneous beliefs - whose theses are also fueled by people close to the president, such as two of his lawyers.
Another QAnon supporter, Jake Angeli, poses behind the U.S. Senate lectern in the pose of a body builder.
The 32-year-old, known as the "QAnon shaman," stands behind the desk with his shirtless torso, shows his arm muscles, shouts "Where's Mike Pence, come out." After it became clear that Vice President Mike Pence was opposed to Trump , he had turned from a bearer of hope to a traitor on 8kun and for QAnon supporters.
8kun is operated by Jim Watkins from the Philippines.
According to analytics services, the site is viewed more than two million times a month.
The Christchurch and Poway and El Paso assassins used the previous page of 8kun to spread their pamphlets.
The right-wing extremist online subculture around sites like 8chan and 8kun also obviously played an important role for Stephan B., the Halle attacker.
The day after the storm on the Capitol, however, other tones can be heard on 8kun - in addition to the usual hate speech.
There are increasing contributions from QAnon supporters who are disaffected and turn away from believing in Q because Trump did not manage to stay in office after all.
Parler: The anti-Facebook
When the big platforms tried frantically to block accounts during the Capitol Storm, nobody seems to delete or block anything on Parler.
Parler is a kind of alternative Twitter, a self-proclaimed "Free Speech Social Network".
All those whose reach is limited by the big tech platforms should find a home here.
Official accounts of the right-wing »Proud Boys«, blocked on Facebook for months, write on Parler alongside conservative politicians like Ted Cruz and right-wing commentators like Tucker Carlson.
Parler was founded in 2018 by John Matze.
One of the first investors was Trump supporter Rebekah Mercer, daughter of hedge fund investor Robert Mercer.
The popularity of the platform came in waves in 2020: When Twitter tightened its user guidelines before the US election, it was said more and more often: Then we'll just go to Parler.
A post on Parler about the company's boss, John Matze
After the US election on November 10th, company boss John Matze wrote in a blog post that has since been deleted that more than 4.5 million new users had been added within the last 5 days.
It's hard to verify this number, but: On the day the post was published, Parler had become the most downloaded free app on the Google Play Store.
Almost anything can be posted on Parler.
Content was not proactively checked or moderated, said company boss Matze on Thursday in an interview with the New York Times.
Only a few voluntary jurors would decide whether once reported content is illegal.
Anyone who looked around the network before January 6th could see that the storm on the Capitol was being prepared here, among other things.
On the platform, users called for the weapons to be prepared and the opponents to be caught.
"Find the traitors and bring a rope," wrote one.
Other users asked about generators for electricity or organized bail funds for possible arrests.
They wrote about stands where they wanted to distribute water and food for other participants and gave tips on how to behave in the uprising.
Both the hashtags #FightBack and #StoptheSteal were trending on the site.
As soon as the first barricades are broken on Wednesday, you will be there live on Parler, apparently unmoderated: Right-wing streamers like the MurdertheMedia account post videos with unclear sources that tens of thousands of users see, and share links to live streams with "correspondents" in DC.
Videos are broadcast here in real time that clearly violate the guidelines of other larger platforms: for example, of 35-year-old Ashli Babbitt being shot by security forces.
The links to this video are also circulating on Twitter.
While the moderators there are still trying to delete the films, the links to Parler have long been known and in the world.
Trump supporter Lin Wood quickly found a new, large following on Parler
Lin Wood, a pro-Trump attorney who was followed by 1.15 million people on Twitter on Jan. 5 before his account was banned that night, just keeps writing on Parler.
836,000 people follow him here - he fell softly.
Around midnight he posts: “Get your weapons ready.
Pence is first. "
Over the night and the next day it was reported again and again that Trump was now on Parler and could finally speak to his supporters again.
Both Facebook and Twitter had temporarily blocked their accounts on Thursday night.
Gab.com: The Twitter alternative
Gab.com is also waiting for Donald Trump.
An account is available there with almost 450,000 followers.
So far, however, he has only copied the tweets from Trump's official Twitter account, "uncensored".
In a blog post titled "President Trump on Gab", Andrew Torba, the platform's founder, wrote that he was "in the process of getting in touch with President Trump's team" to make the move easier for him.
It's hard to say whether that's true or just a clumsy PR attempt for an alternative network that has so far only eked a niche existence.
News from the Gab.com network on an iPhone
Photo: Jenny Kane / AP
Gab.com is called "The Free Speech Social Network" and looks like a Twitter copy in green.
Like Parler, Gab quickly made a name for himself as a safe haven for the rights, conspiracy theorists and anti-Semites.
Before he murdered eleven people in front of a synagogue in 2018, the Pittsburgh bomber posted anti-Semitic hate messages undisturbed for weeks.
Then PayPal stopped working with the platform.
Apple and Google had already banned the app from their app stores the year before.
Perhaps Gab is located even deeper in the swamp of the right parallel worlds than Parler.
CEO Torba described January 6 as a "glorious day" in front of his 721,000 followers.
And while politician Ted Cruz still speaks to almost five million followers on Parler, Gab describes himself as an "anti-establishment" through and through.
On Friday, CEO Torba shared a post: "If they remove the Parler app (and they will), the mass influx to Gab will be insane."
Icon: The mirror