Update: Several hours after this post went live, the American Identity Movement was banned from Facebook and Instagram, but as of April 2, it remains on Twitter. Continue for our previous coverage.
Earlier this month, Identity Evropa, a racist group that's made Colorado one of the main battlegrounds in a nationwide propaganda war, rebranded as the American Identity Movement after the activist outfit Unicorn Riot leaked communications that put the lie to denials of neo-Nazi activity.
Identity Evropa was also targeted by a secret underground network of Colorado activists who coordinated the removal of IE messaging along the Front Range and proved instrumental in getting the organization booted off Twitter, where it had been recruiting new soldiers for its army of hate in plain sight.
But at this writing, the American Identity Movement remains on Twitter even though it's essentially Identity Evropa under another name. Over the weekend, the AIM account tweeted numerous photos of movement stickers on view in Calhan, Colorado, an El Paso County community east of Colorado Springs. And our network source tells us "they stickered the Highlands in the last few days. We removed the stickers. They are now putting them up high so that you need a step stool or small ladder to reach them with a long ice scraper."
A photo of a lower-level sticker in the Highlands was among several tweeted on March 25. See it below.
We reached out to Twitter to ask why AIM's account remains active even though the plug was pulled on Identity Evropa's, and it took multiple attempts over the better part of a week to finally receive a reply, via email. The comment, attributed to a Twitter spokesperson, reads: "It's against the Twitter Rules to affiliate with organizations that — whether by their own statements or activity both on and off the platform — use or promote violence against civilians to further their causes. We'll continue to review any reports and take action in line with our rules."
We shared this response with a member of Colorado Springs Anti-Fascists who uses the pseudonym Rosa Luxemburg; an expert on alt-right tactics such as disinformation campaigns, Luxemburg is well versed on Identity Evropa (she provided insight on the alliance's "DEFEND THE ROCKIES" campaign last year) and is closely tracking its attempt to reinvent itself as the American Identity Movement.
Her take on Twitter's statement, delivered via email? "Hahahaha, what a load of horseshit."
Twitter has been attacked by those on both sides of the ideological divide. California Representative and Donald Trump water carrier Devin Nunes recently filed a $250 million lawsuit against the service, which he accuses of anti-conservative bias in part because it's allowed attacks on him by, among other things, accounts supposedly operated by his mother and his cow. Yet Twitter is also regularly charged with providing a de facto haven for neo-Nazi groups such as Identity Evropa and the American Identity Movement.
In a January interview with Rolling Stone, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey essentially blamed users for the proliferation of racist confederations on his enterprise. "Our enforcement operates on reporting," he insisted. "A lot of people don’t report. They see things, but it’s easier to tweet out 'get rid of the Nazis' than to report it. We need to be more proactive, but a lot of it has to do with the friction of everything relying on it being reported in the first place."
Countering this claim are assertions from our aforementioned underground network participant. She notes that its agents have been regularly reporting alleged violations by the American Identity Movement since its launch earlier this month, to no avail.
"We are in fact working on Twitter to get AIM off," she stresses. "We are trying a couple of strategies that we've used before — that they are the same people and they have not changed their strategies or their ideology. But we are, to date, getting no traction with Twitter."
That's no surprise to Luxemberg. "What you're seeing here is a social-media platform hedging its bets and being disingenuous," she asserts. "Twitter takes action when it becomes politically expedient for them to do so (such as in the case of Milo Yiannopolous), and sits on their hands when it isn't (the constant harassment of women, trans people, people of color, journalists, etc.)."
She adds that "Identity Evropa, which is now American Identity Movement, is using this to their advantage. There is a lot of speculation about the extent to which IE's sudden rebrand was influenced by the massive Unicorn Riot leaks and widespread doxxing of their membership, and while I would love to think the hard work of anti-fascists pressured them to completely rename and reprint all their organizational materials and assets, I tend to think they did in fact plan that in advance. The discord logs [issued by Unicorn Riot] and even Identity Evropa's own blog posts and podcasts reveal the degree of political sophistication these organizations have."
In her view, leaders of the groups "are keenly aware of optics and image and message and branding, and the move away from the pretty clearly fascist aesthetic of 'Identity Evropa' to this new 'American Identity Movement' was a pretty savvy one. ... By becoming 'American Identity Movement,' they are taking advantage of that. They're cloaking themselves in red, white, and blue and conservative politics. They're technically a brand-new group, at least in name, so Twitter doesn't feel they have the same obligation to police this group that just 'formed' in the same way they would Identity Evropa, which had the baggage from Unite the Right and Nathan D'Amigo (he is listed as a 'deleted user' in the logs). So now Twitter will be wary of any appearance of censorship toward this new 'America' group, despite the fact that they are the exact same assholes, just with innocuous American flags instead of weird teal-colored triangles and all that hifalutin' 'Europa' nonsense. The rebrand was a smart move on their part, and Twitter is reacting in exactly the way they hoped."
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As Luxemberg points out, Twitter isn't the only service taking this tack. The American Identity Movement is also on Facebook, which had banned Identity Evropa, too. "These social-media platforms are clearly sitting on their hands and enabling white supremacy, and at the same time they're being accused of 'conservative bias,'" she maintains. "It's pretty Orwellian."
Of course, there are other options for groups like these to spread their bile, including gab, a free social-media network that's become a go-to gathering spot for the alt-right. But Luxemberg believes that "being on Facebook and Twitter gives these guys a reach they would never have on something like gab. It's also important to mention that it is a huge counter-intelligence operation. It's a safe bet that they are making a note of the names and available personal information of everyone who makes a negative comment or engages with their page, and they will then use that info to 'doxx' alleged 'antifa members.' A lot of people in Identity Evropa/American Identity Movement lost their jobs as a result of the Unicorn Riot leaks, and a lot more will in the coming weeks and months. With this rebrand, they are also stepping up their retaliatory measures, but in ways which can't be tied to American Identity Movement members."
Techniques include using fake accounts to troll critics and even parodies of opponents' own messaging, as seen above in the juxtaposition of a Colorado Springs Anti-Fascist sign and a counter-illustration that transforms arrows in the graphic on the left into sagging penises. "We can't prove that Identity Evropa/American Identity Movement was behind it, but who else could it be?" Luxemberg asks.
Luxemberg thinks that "giving these guys a social-media platform legitimizes them. Letting them access Facebook and Twitter (instead of the obscure platforms like gab or vk) lets them mingle with the normies and eventually 'red-pill' them. Twitter and Facebook are telling their user base that 'Diversity Destroys Nations'" — another American Identity Movement slogan, as seen in the photo at the top of this post — "is not just some crazy racist outlier belief, but something we should be talking about."