Free messaging and calling service WhatsApp has been branded a “hotbed for spreading Nazi propaganda in Germany” in a new report by Buzzfeed News that saw its journalists infiltrate far-right groups on the app.
Thousands of examples of symbols and imagery glorifying the Nazi regime were recorded on nine Whatsapp groups Buzzfeed had access to, some of which had names such as “Klu Klux Klan International” and “The German Storm” and numbered up to 250 members each.
The Nazi symbolism used ranged from the discreet – using the raised hand emoji as a Nazi salute ?– to the downright obvious.
Most worrying of all to the German advocacy groups that first raised the alarm on the trend is the abundance of tailor-made Nazi stickers on WhatsApp.
This relatively new feature on the app allows users to create their own images and emojis, allowing far-groups to post their personalised Nazi imagery and slogans easily and freely on WhatsApp groups.
According to Buzzfeed, they included everything from deeply anti-Semitic images, swastikas and SS insignias as well as messages that incite violence against refugees, Muslims, Jews and leftists.
Another example of hate speech circulating on these groups was a chain letter that read: “”You have been Hitlered. Hitler at least 5 more people or in 88 days a money-hungry Jew will steal all your money and rape you.”
“For every person who forwards this message, an immigrant is sent to his home country,” the letter ends.
WhatsApp, which has been owned by Facebook since 2014, has struggled to find ways to deal with the spread and dissemination of hate speech on its platform given the company’s emphasis on making its communication services private and encrypted for all.