July 30, 2021 MEMRI Daily Brief No. 299

The San Francisco-Based Internet Archive – Neo-Nazis' Favorite Website For Spreading Their Materials

July 30, 2021 | By Steven Stalinsky*
MEMRI Daily Brief No. 299

In an op-ed published by on July 20, 2021,[1] titled "This San Francisco-Based Website Is A Favorite Of Neo-Nazis To Spread Their Hatred," MEMRI Executive Director Steven Stalinsky summarized MEMRI's comprehensive study[2] of the massive amount of neo-Nazi, white supremacist, and Holocaust denial content hosted by the San Francisco-based Internet Archive.

Read this report here.

The MEMRI report, published in January 2021, included a preface by renowned Holocaust historian Prof. Yehuda Bauer, the academic advisor to Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center and a member of the MEMRI Board of Advisors.

Bauer wrote in his preface that this study "is of major importance in the fight against hate speech generally, racism, and extreme rightist white supremacy propaganda, and especially its central antisemitic component... The Internet Archive, which is universally available, is circumventing all the efforts, in themselves laudable ones, to limit hate speech disseminated via social media."

The study included a compilation video of examples of this content from the Internet Archive. To view the compilation video of examples of this content found by MEMRI on the Internet Archive, click here or below:

Below is Mr. Stalinsky's op-ed in

Op-Ed By MEMRI Executive Director Steven Stalinsky: 'This San Francisco-Based Website Is A Favorite Of Neo-Nazis To Spread Their Hatred'

In recent years, neo-Nazis, antisemites and other white supremacist and racist groups have been using the San Francisco-based Internet Archive ( for spreading their propaganda and incitement online. The massive online digital library allows them to, in its own words, "upload movies, audio, texts, software, images, and other formats ... any time you wish" and to freely share the link to the resulting page.

For the past decade, Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) research has been exposing the Internet Archive's enabling of Al-Qaeda, ISIS and other jihadi propaganda efforts and its function as a database for their distribution of materials, recruitment campaigns, incitement of violence, fundraising and even daily radio programs. We wrote that ISIS liked the platform because there was no way to flag objectionable content for review and removal — unlike on other platforms such as YouTube. Today, the Internet Archive enables neo-Nazis and white supremacists in the same ways, and its terms of use still deny responsibility for content uploaded to it.

Uploading content requires neither verification nor credentials — just an email address. This was underlined by the pro-Al-Qaeda online newspaper Al-Masra in November 2018 in an article on the Internet Archive's vital role in maintaining an online archive and the ease of using it: "[You] will lose nothing for signing up with a fake email, in a [few] steps that take less than a minute."

While Congress and NGOs have demanded that Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other social media platforms take measures to prevent the spread of hatred, misinformation and incitement to violence on their platforms, the Internet Archive remains a go-to platform for violent antisemites, neo-Nazis, racists and Holocaust deniers.

A recent two-year study I co-authored reviews the massive amount of content being uploaded, downloaded and shared by these groups on the Internet Archive and how it is used for recruitment and radicalization. This includes historical Nazi content such as copies of Der Sturmer, the virulently antisemitic Nazi-era propaganda newspaper, and speeches and writings by Adolph Hitler, Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels and other Nazi figures.

This historical material is interspersed with neo-Nazi content, including tens of thousands of pages with titles such as "Adolf Hitler: The Ultimate Red Pill," "666 Adolf Hitler Quotes" and "Joseph Goebbels, Master of Propaganda, Heil Hitler," and videos and writings by convicted Holocaust deniers.

Also easily found is massive content from popular white supremacist media outlets like Stormfront and the KKK, including former grand wizard David Duke (who is banned from Twitter) and from newer hate groups.

Extremist works are available on the platform for download — and for radicalization — including seminal white supremacist books, training manuals for carrying out attacks, recruitment videos and several manifestos of white supremacist mass shooters.

False, antisemitic conspiracy theories abound about Jewish schemes to seize world power to bring about a "Jew World Order" — not to mention about supposed Jewish "false flag" operations, including the false theory that the October 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue attack was meant to gin up sympathy for the Jews. Searches for terms such as "Holocaust" yield content such as "Holocaust – What Holocaust?" and references to the "Jewish HoloHoax."

The irony is that as the Internet Archive seeks to preserve the ephemeral content of the web, it lends permanence to hate content banned by other platforms, perpetuating the presence of content already banned and removed from YouTube and other platforms. Yet the Internet Archive is clearly capable of alerting users about debunked or banned content when it wants to – even officially announcing, in October 2020, that it was annotating "false and misleading information" in its Wayback Machine by linking to "contextual information" and indicating whether an item had passed the test of "a factchecking organization." But to date it appears to have done this only for content about COVID-19 and the 2017 GOP health care bill.

All this is in harsh contrast to the platform's status as a nonprofit organization providing "Universal Access to All Knowledge" and to Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle's 2019 statements about the platform's aim of countering misinformation. It is also a gross violation of the aims of the government and private elements funding it, among them the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Knight Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities and many others.

Immediately after the release of the MEMRI study, on Jan. 27, Mark Graham, the director of the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine, requested and was provided a copy, along with a list of links to extremist content cited in the report. Yet as of this writing, the links all remain live. This information was re-sent to Graham multiple times over the past six months, including in two requests this past week for confirmation that he had received it. Most likely sensing that a further report was forthcoming, he finally responded to the MEMRI staffer who had sent him the information, in a phone call in which he stated that everything we had sent him had been read and reviewed and that there were difficult ethical and other decisions around running an online library. Graham said that we could call him back for further explanation, but offered no plan for taking action or for preventing terrorist and extremist groups from continuing to use the platform freely.

Despite Graham's definition of the issue as complicated, there is no complication in the fact that neo-Nazis and white supremacists have continued, since the publication of the MEMRI study, to freely use the Internet Archive unabated, without any action being taken. Furthermore, it has been over a decade since our research exposed terrorist groups using the platform, including Al-Qaeda and ISIS, also without any action being taken. As noted in the MEMRI study, there is a need for libraries to take responsibility and to be sure that safeguards are in place so that the library — physical or digital — is not misused. Yes, it can be complicated — but just as other social media platforms are held accountable for the content they allow to be posted on them, so must the Internet Archive.

Based on my understanding of how the platform is being used, the Internet Archive and its board members should develop a solution for dealing with the glut of hateful content on the platform. While its mission is admirable, it cannot be exempted from the scrutiny directed against other popular platforms for their role in enabling the spread of antisemitic, racist and hateful misinformation. The consumption of this content has all-too-real and often deadly consequences — yet the Internet Archive remains a safe haven and allows it to flourish.

*Steven Stalinsky is Executive Director of The Middle East Media Research Institute, which is actively working with Congress and tech companies on ways to fight hate online through its Domestic Terrorist Threat Monitor (DTTM) project.


[1], July 20, 2021.

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