Accounts for White Supremacist Active Clubs Allowed to Remain on Instagram

April 13, 2023
Joshua Fisher-Birch  —  Research Analyst

Meta-owned Instagram has failed to remove accounts promoting white supremacy, including those affiliated with Rise Above Movement-inspired active clubs in Europe. The continued existence of these accounts is concerning, especially because the platform has previously removed profiles for active club chapters and their supporters for violating its terms of service.

Between December and April, the Counter Extremism Project (CEP) located five Instagram accounts belonging to active club chapters in the Netherlands, France, Estonia, Finland, and Sweden. The accounts had between 161 and 1,274 followers on April 12, averaging 485. Each account contained links to their affiliated Telegram channel and photos and videos of active club members working out, boxing, and displaying chapter flags in different locations. Based on symbols, links, and language used, the accounts are unambiguous in their allegiance. The five accounts were all reported to Instagram for violating their Community Standards, however, the profiles were not removed.

The lack of action from Instagram is troubling because active clubs seek to normalize fascism and recruit new members from outside the existing extreme right community. The Instagram accounts’ focus on fitness and group bonding correlates with the narratives used by active club chapters and recruiters. An account on a mainstream social networking platform can help groups that seek to disguise their white supremacist extremist ideology to potential recruits.

Social media companies must consider what content groups post on other sites. In January, a Telegram channel for an active club chapter in the Pacific Northwest shared an image glorifying the 2015 Charleston church shooter. Other Telegram channels affiliated with active club branches routinely post messages endorsing racism, antisemitism, anti-LGBTQ sentiment, and neo-Nazism. Additionally, active club chapters have included members of the violent Hammerskins neo-Nazi skinhead gang, and the movement is allied with the group Patriot Front.

The lack of action regarding these accounts also needs to be clarified, considering that the platform removed Instagram accounts for active club chapters in Pennsylvania and North Carolina in May and November 2022. Additionally, an Instagram account for a clothing brand affiliated with the active club movement and its founder, Rob Rundo, was also removed from Instagram in May 2022. Rundo was arrested in Romania in March and will be tried in the U.S. for charges related to acts of violence committed at protests in 2017.

This is not the first time that Instagram has been slow to act regarding Rundo. The site failed to remove a clothing line affiliated with Rundo and the Rise Above Movement in 2018 after a Huffington Post reporter repeatedly reported the page. The account was only deleted after the news outlet contacted an Instagram spokesperson.

As a first step, Instagram should remove these white supremacist accounts as well as the accounts of active club members and those who publicly show support for them by posting the group’s propaganda. That these accounts have remained on the platform indicates Instagram’s slow, reactive, and ineffective response to the promotion of violent white supremacism. The reality is that these five accounts are only the tip of the iceberg. Multiple other users still promote hate and violence, but the decision to remove this specific network should be easy.

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Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.


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