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A Problem of Epik Proportions

Quietly, a small domain registrar called Epik is cornering the market on websites where hate speech is thriving.

First, the company picked up the glitchy Twitter knockoff Gab after that site was deplatformed for its associations with October’s domestic terror attack at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, which left 11 people dead. Now, the company has picked up the business of BitChute, a low-rent YouTube clone that carries an array of hate-fueled material, including white nationalist podcasts, propaganda linked to a murderous neo-Nazi group and a parody song called “N----- Babies,” which chortles at the idea of slaughtering and then eating black infants.

“We have started the process of moving our domain names over to @epik,” BitChute noted in a Gab post Sunday. “Just to reassure everyone that our domain is not currently under attack or facing any issues with our current provider. This is purely because we would like to move to Epik after chatting to the owner Rob Monster we are confident we'll be in good hands.”

Monster’s celebrity appears to have grown on the racist right in recent months, in large part because of Epik’s apparent willingness to embrace those who have been deplatformed for links to hate speech. Gab was taken offline for a full week in the aftermath of that Oct. 27, 2018, synagogue shooting, which was allegedly perpetrated by one of its radicalized users, a man named Robert Bowers. Bowers posted on Gab about the “white genocide” conspiracy theory under the handle @OneDingo, and plotted publicly with prominent white nationalists, including Brad Griffin of League of the South, to out antiracist activists. Companies like Paypal, Joylent and even Stripe (a payment processor that freely works with other players in the world of organized racism like podcaster Mike Peinovich and Rise Above Movement) declined to be tarnished by Gab’s murder-tainted brand. But Monster and his company Epik obliged, helping to give the small website a second wind it needed to survive.

Epik once pitched itself as “the premier provider of integrated domain name lifecycle management solutions,” but following its union with Gab, the company updated its Twitter bio to a more straightforward label, “protector of responsible Free Speech.” Monster even joined Gab in November, where he got to interact with a menagerie of racist, misogynist and antisemitic talking heads, including “Crying Nazi” Chris Cantwell and Eric Striker, a pseudonymous white nationalist podcaster. Striker, who once wrote for the Daily Stormer, often collaborates with David Duke, and has built a small audience for himself by ridiculing murder victims and complaining about his belief that Jewish people somehow ruined heavy metal and video games.

Monster, who denies having sympathies for white nationalism and describes himself as merely being a religious Christian, appeared on one of Striker’s many various livestream projects, “The People’s Square” on Friday, Jan. 4. Monster made comments on that show that did little to distance his company from the white nationalist movement, or its values.

“You look at a guy like David Duke for example, and he has some far-right views and so forth,” Monster says, in the context of people becoming more open-minded to controversial views through the help of the internet. “But he’s actually a pretty clever guy, he’s articulate. He knows history. And I don’t know the body of his work, but I have a feeling that many people grew up with this mindset that you shouldn’t listen to anything David Duke says.”

David Duke, of course, is arguably the most famous racist in America, and says lots of different things, including advocating for the ethnic cleansing of Jews and non-whites from American soil. Monster also boasted on the show about the degree to which memes created for Gab were later being “propagated on Facebook and Twitter.” Gab has become almost synonymous with the propagation of memes ridiculing Jews and other minorities, and sometimes advocating violence and domestic terrorism.

“Graphical memes are maybe incubating and being field tested on a site like Gab, for example, and then two or three days later you’ll see it trending on some form of social media or old school email list or what have you,” Monster said on the People’s Square podcast.

Monster told Hatewatch in a phone interview that he disagrees with Duke’s racist worldview but respects his intelligence, and that he was completely unaware of who Eric Striker was when he agreed to speak with him in the context of what was supposed to be a “one and one meet and greet.” He said he wasn’t told the conversation would be recorded for the purpose of broadcast and figured it out only after he was asked to participate in the conversation on Google Hangouts, which is sometimes used for the purpose of livestreaming web shows. Hatewatch reached out to the man behind the Eric Striker persona, but he declined to comment on whether or not he had aired the livestream without telling Monster what he was doing. Monster showed his face on the livestream, which was titled “Internet Freedom and Democracy,” but Eric Striker and a co-host who calls himself “Borzoi” did not.

“I am not in any way antisemitic,” Monster told Hatewatch. He added, “I think Gab has gotten cleaner” since moving to Epik. (While it’s true that several high-profile Gab users, including antisemitic politician Patrick Little, have been banned from that website in the aftermath of the Tree of Life shooting, white supremacist organizing remains commonplace on the platform in 2019.)

When asked whether or not he was aware that propaganda tied to Atomwaffen Division, a neo-Nazi group responsible for five murders since 2017, was actively being published on both Gab and Bitchute, Monster claimed to not be aware of that material. He also claimed to be unaware of a series of song parodies published on BitChute in which the idea of murdering minorities en masse is celebrated. BitChute features a song called “49 F------ and One Dune Coon,” for example, which glorifies Orlando’s anti-gay Pulse massacre shooting, which was perpetrated by a man who was sympathetic to the terror group ISIS. It also features a smattering of videos praising racist mass murderer Dylann Roof as a hero. One such video even refers to the dour-faced killer as a “white Nelson Mandela.” Monster claimed the existence of this material on BitChute and his company’s links to similar material now across two websites was incidental.

“Bitchute is not on Epik yet,” Monster protested. “Please wait for the dust to settle.”

Photo illustration by SPLC.

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