A Free Market in Extreme Speech: Scientific Racism and Bloodsports on YouTube

Emilie de Keulenaar, Marc Tuters, Cassian Osborne-Carey, Daniël Hans Marinus Jurg, Ivan Kisjes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Around 2018, YouTube became heavily criticized for its radicalizing function by allowing far-right actors to produce hateful videos that were in turn amplified through algorithmic recommendations. Against this ‘algorithmic radicalization’ hypothesis, Munger and Phillips (2019, 2020) argued that far-right radical content on YouTube fed into audience demand, suggesting researchers adopt a ‘supply and demand’ framework. Navigating this debate, our article deploys novel methods for examining radicalization in the language of far-right pundits and their audiences within YouTube’s so-called ‘Alternative Influence Network’ (Lewis, 2018). To that end, we operationalize the concept ‘extreme speech’—developed to account for ‘the inherent ambiguity of speech contexts’ online (Pohjonen and Udupa, 2017)—to an analysis of a right-wing ‘Bloodsports’ debate subculture that thrived on the platform at the time. Highlighting the topic of ‘race realism’, we develop a novel mixed-methods approach: repurposing the far-right website Metapedia as a corpus to detect unique terms related to the issue. We use this corpus to analyze the transcripts and comments from an archive of 950 right-wing channels, collected from 2008 until 2018. In line with Munger and Phillips’ framework, our empirical study identifies a market for extreme speech on the platform, which came into public view in 2017.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberfqab076
Pages (from-to)949-971
Number of pages23
JournalDigital Scholarship in the Humanities
Issue number4
Early online date28 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - 22 Oct 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
M. T. received financial support for this article from the ODYCCEUS Horizon 2020 Project (grant agreement number 732942) and from the AHRC funded Infodemic Project. E. dK. is supported by the UKRICanada ESRC Grant, Responsible AI for Inclusive, Democratic Societies: a Cross-disciplinary approach to detecting and countering abusive language online (ESRC reference ES/T012714/1). C. O.-C. received support for this article from the AHRC Grant-funded Project “Political Ideology, Rhetoric and Aesthetics in the Twenty-First Century: The Case of the ‘Alt-Right’” (AHRC reference AH/R001197/1).

Publisher Copyright:
VC The Author(s) 2021.

Copyright 2023 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Alt-right
  • YouTube
  • Speech markets
  • Extreme speech
  • Bloodsports
  • Hate speech


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