Revealed: Startup Creates Streaming Platform for Extremists on Big-Tech Infrastructure
And Hatewatch can reveal that Chthonic Software, whose leaders recently moved from Calgary, Alberta to Turkey, has so far been able to run its Entropy platform using the infrastructure provided by the platform. Microsoft’s Azure cloud form.
Chthonic, which incorporated in Alberta in 2018, launched Entropy in 2019 as a live video streaming service for creators to collect payments from their viewers.
They actively promoted the site as a ‘free speech’ alternative to traditional social media services – repeating the rhetoric used by other ‘alt-tech’ platforms geared to extremists, notably Bitchute, Gab and Parler.
Like these sites, Chthonic’s pledge of limited moderation has attracted leading extremists, some of whom have been distorted from mainstream sites following or before the Jan.6 attack on the Capitol in Washington, DC.
In a December podcast, Greg Johnson, who runs the white nationalist website and publisher Counter-Currents, said, âEntropystream is the only way we can accept credit card payments. “
Johnson added, “We have been warped of the global credit card processing industry by angry merchants, disgruntled merchants, who don’t like our message,” using coded anti-Semitic terms familiar to group watchers. white nationalists.
There are some indications that Chthonic specifically courted this niche of distorted extremists.
A tweet from their official Twitter account, “@EntropyDevs” on July 10, 2020, promoted a livestream with white nationalist comedian Owen Benjamin, with the promise of “uncensored interaction.”
Another tweet from March 12, 2020 reminded subscribers that they can send paid âoffline super chatsâ to French-Canadian white nationalist Jean-FranÃ§ois Gariepy ahead of his stream later that evening.
And on January 28, 2020, a tweet featuring a screenshot of White Nationalist Nick Fuentes streaming in the Entropy app was captioned: “As corporate media shut down comment sections and streaming platforms are stepping up their censorship efforts, @NickJFuentes has always found a way to provide you with uncensored interaction. Join him, LIVE NOW in Entropy.
Fuentes’ Twitter account has since been banned, and while he used Entropy for some time to collect payments from followers of his white nationalist media brand “America First”, at the end of last month he could no longer be. found on the site.
On November 29, Fuentes told viewers of his Nightly Stream that he could no longer use Chthonic’s flagship platform to collect payments.
“Entropy won’t work anymoreâ¦ because I was banned,” Fuentes said, explaining that “their payment processor forced them to ban me, by name.”
Fuentes continued, âTheir payment processor called them, at Entropy, and said, ‘If you don’t ban Nick Fuentes, we’re going to take your entire site down. “
But in the same stream, Fuentes said a solution has been found.
âWe have a new superchat system,â Fuentes said, referring to a convention in streaming services that users donate and streamers in return prioritize reading and interacting with the issues. and comments from these users.
“The superchats are back,” added Fuentes, without explaining how it was accomplished. “The link is in the description of this feed.”
A few days earlier, the co-founder, director and CEO of Chthonic, Emmanuel Constantinidis, had offered an explanation to Entropy users.
After being asked on Entropy’s Discord chat server if Fuentes had been banned from the service, Constantinidis wrote, “Yes, but we’ve created a replacement for him.”
Constantinidis continued, “It’s a complicated story, but suffice it to say we won’t let anyone dry up.”
On the November 29 show, Fuentes announced that future superchat-style payments will be handled by a new site, Streampayments.
The URL for this new site was recorded on November 17, according to DNS records.
Users who register on the Streampayments site receive an email with the subject line “Verifying Streampay Account” of “email@example.com â, an email address linked to the URL of the original site from which Fuentes was deleted, apparently owned by co-founder Rachel Constantinidis, who is also Emmanuel’s wife.
Hatewatch has reviewed the source code for the Streampayments site and confirmed that it contains payment processing routines for Entropy and Streampayments.
From the source code and a payment receipt obtained by Hatewatch, it is evident that Stripe is currently the primary payment processor for Entropy users.
In a discussion on Chthonic’s Discord server, Rachel Constantinidis said Google Pay tools are used to encrypt customers’ credit card information.
Far-right streamers can make tens of thousands of dollars a month from public donations, like Hatewatch did Previously reported.
And according to their own promotional materials, Chthonic pockets 15% of the money streamers make on Entropy.
However, the company looked for other sources of income as well. In a fundraising appeal posted on the subscription fundraising site Subscribestar, Entropy asked for $ 2,937 to “cover our basic costs so that we can continue to build an Internet without censorship and produce useful content. and interesting while accompanying you on our journey “.
As of October, the effort had only earned the company three clients, two at the $ 5 per month level and one pledging at $ 10 per month. In December, Entropy’s Subscribestar page was removed.
DNS records for Entropy and Streampayments reveal that their two sites depend on the infrastructure provided by Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform.
Azure provides hosting, software, platform and infrastructure services to website builders and administrators through the tech giant’s global network of data centers.
Notably, Azure’s out-of-the-box tools make it easier for inexperienced developers to build websites with sophisticated features like live streaming that require high storage and bandwidth.
Emily Laidlaw is the Canada Research Chair in Cyber ââSecurity Law at the University of Calgary, where her research focuses on online abuse, freedom of expression and law reform.
During a telephone conversation, she said that although Canada is “in the midst of legislative reforms” regarding hate speech online, currently “there is no intermediary accountability” for the issue of online hate speech. hate speech.
“While the platform is acting as an intermediary, there is no specific law to regulate its liability for hate speech,” continued Laidlaw.
âThe question is whether a court would view the platform here as communicating hate speech – essentially not as an intermediary – and therefore can lay charges under the penal code. “
His colleague in Calgary, Associate Professor Michael Nesbitt, is an expert on the intersection of law, national security and terrorism.
In a separate telephone conversation, Nesbitt pointed to the recent Canadian government ban on several far-right actors as âterrorist entities,â including The Base, Atomwaffen Division, the Proud Boys and James Mason.
He said these bans explicitly criminalized offering support – including financial support – to such groups, but the underlying law did not require an entity to be on the prosecution list to prosecute. support for terrorist acts.
He added that while “we have not seen any instance where a website host has been held accountable” for supporting such entities or acts, the obligations that the laws place on financial institutions meant that they could cut anyone close to extremism from an abundance of caution.
Hatewatch has reached out to Microsoft, Stripe and Chthonic Founder and CEO Emmanuel Constantinidis, with detailed requests for comment on their relationship. None immediately responded.
Fuentes isn’t the only extremist using the platforms Chthonic has built on the foundations of Microsoft.
Prominent white nationalists who broadcast and collect payments on the site include:
- The failed comedian and future speaker builder Owen Benjamin.
- Longtime white nationalist propagandist Greg Johnson, who has a page under his Counter-Currents brand.
- Patrick Casey, leader of the white nationalist movement for American identity (formerly Identity Evropa).
- Robert Ray aka “Azzmador”, a neo-Nazi fugitive wanted for his role in the murderous “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.
- British neo-Nazi and conspiracy theorist Mark Collett.
- Matt Parrott, co-founder of the deceased Traditionalist Workers’ Party.
- White nationalist talk show Red ice television.
On top of that, Hatewatch’s analysis revealed at least 30 other extremist accounts monetized on Entropy.
According to a lengthy post from Emmanuel Constantinidis on Entropy’s Discord server on May 13, Chthonic appears to be making a deliberate attempt to create a platform that will accommodate white supremacist ideologues.
He also criticized rival alternative services such as Odysee and DLive for implementing hate speech bans, saying it would lead to “censorship of legitimate dissenting opinions.”
In the post, he told users: “We have been working to decouple Entropy from services that we see as threatened by politically motivated targeting,” adding that “this means strengthening our payment systems, our servers and our messaging system. against attempts at deplatform “.
According to documents obtained from the provincial government of Alberta, Chthonic was incorporated on January 25, 2018 by Emmanuel and Rachel Constantinidis, both of whom were residing in Calgary at the time.
At some point between that date and the Hatewatch Records Search on December 1, David Bell, also listed as a resident of Calgary, was added as a director, with each of the three listed as owning 33.333% of the shares with rights. vote of the company.
Although they are still listed as residents of Alberta, the YouTube videos reviewed by Hatewatch indicate that the trio, along with Bell’s wife, have moved to Antalya, Turkey..
Photo illustration by SPLC (from left to right: Robert Ray aka “Azzmador”, photo by Abdul Aziz; Nick Fuentes, photo by Getty Images; Owen Benjamin, photo from Wikipedia)