Broadcast Your Past: Analysis of a German Former Right-Wing Extremist’s YouTube Channel for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism and Crime


  • Antje Gansewig Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg
  • Maria Walsh Independent Researcher


Former Extremists, P/CVE, C/AN, School-Based PVE, Social Media, YouTube


Recently, former extremists and offenders have begun providing online initiatives in addition to their offline enterprises (e.g., in-school talks, TV productions, autobiographies). They often present these initiatives as designed to prevent and counter violent extremism and crime. Strikingly, while formers’ online narratives are increasing and usually receive positive coverage, research on them has been limited. This study applied a structure analysis to systematically explore a former right-wing extremist’s YouTube channel as a case study. The analysis was based on the formal channel criteria and 421 videos published between May 2017 and May 2020. This is a full survey during this period. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to investigate this phenomenon. Examining the YouTube channel provides valuable evidence for: (1) a focus on detailed narratives and visualizations from the extremist and criminal past, (2) using YouTube as a business model, and (3) distributing content and behavior that is inappropriate for children and youths (e.g., depicting violence, alcohol consumption, and [e-]cigarette use). The results indicate that such online initiatives’ content and other relevant aspects (e.g., content creators’ self-presentation) require more critical attention and reflection before they, for example, are promoted as suitable tools for young people.


Alfano, M., Fard, A.E., Carter, J.A., Clutton, P., & Klein, C. (2020). Technologically scaf-folded atypical cognition: the case of YouTube’s recommender system. Synthese.

Bélanger, J., Nisa, C., Schumpe, B., Gurmu, T., Williams, M., & Putra, I. (2020). Do Counter-Narratives Reduce Support for ISIS? Yes, but Not for Their Target Audience. Frontiers in Psychology, 11, 1-11.

Berg, A. (2019). Kinder und Jugendliche in der digitalen Welt. Bitkom Research. Available at: (accessed October 07, 2021).

Braddock, K. (2020). Weaponized Words. The Strategic Role of Persuasion in Violent Radi-calization and Counter-Radicalization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Braddock, K., & Horgan, J. (2016). Towards a Guide for Constructing and Disseminating Counternarratives to Reduce Support for Terrorism. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 39(5), 381-404.

Braddock, K., & Dillard, J.P. (2016). Meta-analytic evidence for the persuasive effect of nar-ratives on beliefs, attitudes, intentions and behaviors. Communications Monograph, 83(4), 446-467.

Briggs, R., & Feve, S. (2013). Review of programs to counter narratives of violent extremism. What works and what are the implications for government. London: ISD.

Brüggen, N., Dreyer, S., Gebel, C., Lauber, A., Müller, R., & Stecher, S. (2019). Gefährdung-satlas. Digitales Aufwachsen. Vom Kind aus denken. Zukunftssicher handeln. Bundesprüf-stelle für jugendgefährdende Medien.

Conway, M., & McInerney, L. (2008). Jihadi Video and Auto-radicalisation: Evidence from an Exploratory YouTube Study. In D. Ortiz-Arroyo, H.L. Larsen, D.D. Zeng, D. Hicks, & G. Wagner (eds.), Intelligence and Security Informatics. EuroIsI 2008. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, Vol. 5376 (pp. 108–118). Berlin: Springer.

Costello, M., Barrett-Fox, R., Bernatzky, C., Hawdon, J., & Mendes, K. (2020). Predictors of viewing online extremism among America’s youth. Youth & Society, 52(5), 710-727.

Carthy, S., Doody, C., Cox, K., O’Hora, D., & Sarma, K. (2020). Counter-narratives for the prevention of violent radicalization: A systematic review of targeted interventions. Campbell Systematic Reviews. Vol. 16(3).

Charmaz, K. (2006). Constructing grounded theory. London; Thousand Oaks, Calif.; New Delhi: Sage.

Davey, J., Birdwell, J., & Skellett, R. (2018). Counter conversations: A model for direct en-gagement with individuals showing signs of radicalisation online. London: ISD.

De Veirman, M., Hudders, L., & Nelson, M.R. (2019). What is influencer marketing and how does it target children? A review and direction for future research. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, 2685.

Deutsches Institut für Vertrauen und Sicherheit im Internet (DIVSI) (2018). Euphorie war gestern. Die „Generation Internet“ zwischen Glück und Abhängigkeit. Hamburg.

Enke, N., Bigl, B., Schubert, M., & Welker, M. (2021). Studie zu Werbepraktiken und direk-ten Kaufappellen an Kinder in sozialen Medien. Ein Forschungsprojekt im Auftrag der KJM. Berlin: Kommission für Jugendmedienschutz.

Ernst, J., Schmitt, J.C., Rieger, D., Beier, A.K., Vorderer, P., Bente, G., & Roth, H.J. (2017). Hate beneath the counter speech? A qualitative content analysis of user comments on YouTube related to counter speech videos. Journal for Deradicalization, 10, 1-49.

Ernst, J., & Schmitt, J. (2020). Politische Bildung für Jugendliche in oder mit digitalen Medi-en? Medienpädagogische Reflexionen der Strukturbedingungen von YouTube. MedienPä-dagogik: Zeitschrift für Theorie und Praxis der Medienbildung, 38, 21-42.

European Society for Prevention Research (EUSPR) (2019). Position of the European Society for Prevention Research on ineffective and potentially harmful approaches in substance use prevention. Available at: (accessed October 09, 2021).

Eurostat (2020). Being young in Europe today. Available at: (accessed Octo-ber 07, 2021).

Eveland, W.P., & Schmitt, J.B. (2015). Communication and knowledge content matters: Inte-grating manipulation and observation in studying news and discussion learning effects. Journal of Communication, 65, 170-191.

Ferguson, K. (2016). Countering Violent Extremism Through Media and Communication Strategies: A Review of the Evidence. Available at: (accessed October 18, 2021).

Flick, U. (2014). Gütekriterien qualitativer Sozialforschung. In N. Baur, & J. Blasius (eds.), Handbuch Methoden der empirischen Sozialforschung (pp. 411–423). Wiesbaden: Springer VS.

Frischlich, L., Rieger, D., Morten, A., & Bente, G. in Kooperation mit der Forschungsstelle Terrorismus/Extremismus des Bundeskriminalamtes (2017). Videos gegen Extremismus? Counter-Narrative auf dem Prüfstand. Wiesbaden: Griebsch & Rochol Druck GmbH.

Frühbrodt, L., & Floren, A. (2019). Unboxing YouTube. Im Netzwerk der Profis und Profiteu-re. Otto Brenner Stiftung.

Gansewig, A., & Walsh, M. (2020). Biografiebasierte Maßnahmen in der schulischen Präven-tions- und Bildungsarbeit. Eine empirische Betrachtung des Einsatzes von Aussteigern aus extremistischen Szenen unter besonderer Berücksichtigung ehemaliger Rechtsextremer. Ba-den-Baden: Nomos.

Gansewig, A., & Walsh, M. (2021a). Preventing Violent Extremism with Former Extremists in Schools: A Media Analysis of the Situation in Germany. Terrorism and Political Vio-lence.

Gansewig, A., & Walsh, M. (2021b). Die Sichtweise von Schülerinnen und Schülern auf eine primärpräventive Maßnahme eines ehemaligen Rechtsextremen: Befunde einer Evaluations-studie und Empfehlungen für Bildungsakteure. Zeitschrift für Bildungsforschung, 11, 187-205.

Gansewig A., & Walsh M. (in press). “That is simply one thing that goes with it.” Former ex-tremists in school settings and empirical evidence. Educational Review.

Gebel, C., Oberlinner, A., Stecher, S., & Brüggen, N. (2019). „Ja, die großen Youtuber, die dürfen eigentlich machen, was sie wollen.“ Orientierung von 11- bis 14-Jährigen auf Y-ouTube. ACT ON! Short Report Nr. 5. Ausgewählte Ergebnisse der Monitoringstudie. Mün-chen: JFF – Institut für Medienpädagogik in Forschung und Praxis.

Glaser, S. (2021). Jugendschutz im Internet. 2020 Bericht. Risiken und Handlungsbedarf. Mainz:

Griese, H., Brüggen, N., Materna, G., & Müller, E. (2020). Politische Meinungsbildung Ju-gendlicher in sozialen Medien. Zugänge, ausgewählte Befunde und aktuelle Einblicke in ein interdisziplinäres Forschungsfeld. JFF - Institut für Medienpädagogik in Forschung und Praxis.

Grizzle, A., & Tornero, J. (2016). Media and information literacy against online hate, radical and extremist content, some preliminary research findings in relation to youth and a research design. In J. Singh, P. Kerr, & E. Hamburger (eds.), MILID Yearbook 2016, Media and In-formation Literacy: Reinforcing Human Rights, Countering Radicalization and Extremism (pp. 179-201). France: UNESCO.

Hassan, G., Brouillette-Alarie, S., Alava, S., Frau-Meigs, D., Lavoie, L., Fetiu, A., Varela, W., Borokhovski, E., Venkatesh, V., Rousseau, C., & Sieckelinck, S. (2018). Exposure to ex-tremist online content lead to violent radicalization: A systematic review of empirical evi-dence. International Journal for Developmental Science, 12(1-2), 71-88.

Hedayah, & International Center for Counter-Terrorism (ICCT) (2014). Developing effective counter narrative frameworks for countering violent extremism [Meeting Note]. Available at: (accessed October 09, 2021).

Herath, C., & Whittaker, J. (2021), Online Radicalisation: Moving beyond a Simple Dichoto-my. Terrorism and Political Violence.

Holdaway, L., & Simpson, R. (2018). Improving the Impact of Preventing Violent Extremism Programming: A Toolkit for Design, Monitoring and Evaluation. United Nations Develop-ment Programme. Available at: (accessed October 09, 2021).

Horgan, J. (2009). Walking Away from Terrorism: Accounts of Disengagement from Radical and Extremist Movements. New York, NY: Routledge

Hugger, K., Braun, L.M., Noll, C., Nowak, T., Gräßer, L., Zimmermann, D., & Kaspar, K. (2019). Zwischen Authentizität und Inszenierung: Zur medienkritischen Einschätzung in-formationsorientierter YouTuber*innen-Videos durch Jugendliche. In F. von Gross, & R. Röllecke (eds.), Instagram und YouTube der (Pre-)Teens – Inspiration, Beeinflussung, Teil-habe (pp. 29-36). München: kopaed.

Jeong, S.H., Cho, H., & Hwang, Y. (2012). Media Literacy Interventions: A Meta-Analytic Review. The Journal of Communication, 62(3), 454-472.

Koehler, D. (2016). Understanding Deradicalization. Methods, Tools and Programs for Countering Violent Extremism. Oxon, NY: Routledge.

Koehler, D. (2020). Involvement of Formers in Countering Violent Extremism: A Critical Perspective on Commonly Held Assumptions. In M. Walsh, & A. Gansewig (eds.), Frühere Extremisten in der schulischen Präventionsarbeit: Perspektiven aus Wissenschaft und Pra-xis (pp. 15-22). Bonn: Nationalen Zentrums für Kriminalprävention.

Lacy, S., Watson, B.R., Riffe, D., & Lovejoy, J. (2015). Issues and Best Practices in Content Analysis, Communication Studies Faculty Publications and Presentations. Available at: (accessed October 09, 2021).

Lefevere, J., DeSwert, K., & Walgrave, S. (2012). Effects of popular exemplars in television news. Communication Research, 39(1), 103-119.

Lewis, J., & Mardsen, S. (2021). Countering Violent Extremism Interventions: Contemporary Research. Centre for Research and Evidence on Security Threats.

Lou, C., & Yuan, S. (2019). Influencer marketing: How message value and credibility affect consumer rust of branded content on social media. Journal of Interactive Advertising, 19(1), 58-73.

Materna, G., Lauber, A., & Brüggen, N. (2021). Politisches Bildhandeln. Der Umgang Ju-gendlicher mit visuellen politischen, populistischen und extremistischen Inhalten in sozialen Medien. München: kopaed.

Mattsson, C., & Johansson, T. (2020). Talk is silver and silence is gold? Assessing the impact of public disengagement from the extreme right on deradicalization. Journal for Deradicali-zation, 24, 79-111.

McDowell-Smith, A., Speckhard, A., & Yayla, A.S. (2017). Beating Isis in the Digital Space: Focus Testing Isis Defector Counter-Narrative Videos With American College Students. Journal for Deradicalization, 10, 50-76.

Medienpädagogischer Forschungsverbund Südwest (MPFS) (2019). JIM 2019. Jugend, In-formation, Medien. Stuttgart.

Meleagrou-Hitchens, A., & Kaderbhai, N. (2017). Research Perspectives on Online Radicali-sation. A Literature Review, 2006-2016. International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation.

Morrison, J.F., Silke, A., Maiberg, H., Slay, C., & Stewart, R. (2021). A Systematic Review Of Post-2017 Research On Disengagement And Deradicalisation. Full Report. Crest.

Munger, K., & Phillips, J. (2020). Right-Wing YouTube: A Supply and Demand Perspective. International Journal of Press/Politics.

Neumann, P. (2015). Victims, Perpetrators, Assets: The Narratives of Islamic State Defectors. International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence.

Oberlinner, A., Stecher, S., Gebel, C., & Brüggen, N. (2020). „Wenn er nicht in die Kamera schaut, ... ist es eine Lüge.“ Glaubwürdigkeit von YouTube-Videos aus Sicht von 10- bis 12-Jährigen. ACT ON! Short Report Nr. 6. Ausgewählte Ergebnisse der Monitoringstudie. München: JFF – Institut für Medienpädagogik in Forschung und Praxis.

O’Callaghan, D., Greene, D., Conway, M., Carthy, J., & Cunningham, P. (2015). Down the (white) rabbit hole. Social Science Computer Review, 33(4), 459-478.

Petrosino A., Turpin-Petrosino C., & Finckenauer J. (2000). Well-meaning programs can have harmful effects! Lessons from experiments from programs such as scared straight. Crime & Delinquency, 46(3), 354-379.

Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN) (2015). Counter narratives and alternative narra-tives. Available at: (accessed October 18, 2021).

RAN (2017). Dos and don’ts of involving formers in PVE/CVE work: Ex ante paper Working with formers in exit work and online. Available at: (accessed October 18, 2021).

RAN (2021). RAN Activities in Communication & Narratives. Special Overview Paper. Available at: (accessed October 18, 2021).

Reinemann, C., Nienierza, A., Fawzi, N., Riesmeyer, C., & Neumann, K. (2019). Jugend - Medien - Extremismus. Wiesbaden: Springer VS.

Samuel, T. (2020). At the Crossroads: Rethinking the Role of Education in Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism. In A. Schmid (ed.), Handbook of Terrorism Prevention and Preparedness (pp. 165-205). The Hague: ICCT Press.

Schewe, J., & Koehler, D. (2021). When Healing Turns to Activism: Formers and Family Members’ Motivation to Engage in P/CVE. Journal for Deradicalization, 28, 141-182.

Schmitt, J.B., Rieger, D., Rutkowski, O., & Ernst, J. (2018). Counter-messages as Prevention or Promotion of Extremism?! The Potential Role of YouTube. Journal of Communication, 68(4), 780-808.

Schuegraf, M., & Janssen, A. (2017). Webformat-Analyse. In L. Mikos, & C. Wegener (eds.), Qualitative Medienforschung, Ein Handbuch (2nd ed., pp. 555-561). Konstanz: UTB.

Schuegraf, M., & Wegener, C. (2017). Faszination YouTube. Social Media zwischen Bildung und Selbstbildung. TelevIZIon: Neues Lernen?, 30(1), 36-40.

Silke, A., Morrison, J., Maiberg, H., Slay, C., & Stewart, R. (2021). The Phoenix Model of Disengagement and Deradicalisation from Terrorism and Violent Extremism. Monatsschrift für Kriminologie und Strafrechtsreform 104(3), 310–319.

Silverman, T., Stewart, C.J., & Birdwell, J. (2016). The impact of counter narrative. Insights from a year-long cross-platform pilot study of counter-narrative curation, targeting, evalua-tion and impact. London: ISD.

Sokolova, K., & Kefi, H. (2020). Instagram and YouTube bloggers promote it, why should I buy? How credibility and parasocial interaction influence purchase intentions. Journal of Re-tailing and Consumer Services, 53.

Speckhard, A., Ellenberg, M., & Ahmed, M. (2020). Jihad is our Way: Testing a counter nar-rative video in two Somali American focus groups. Bildhaan: An International Journal of Somali Studies, 20, 54-73.

Spinelli, L., & Crovella, M. (2020). How YouTube leads privacy-seeking users away from reliable information. In 8th ACM Conference on User Modeling, Adaptation and Personali-zation (UMAP ’20 Adjunct), July14–17, 2020, Genoa, Italy. ACM, New York, NY, USA.

Staksrud, E., Livingstone, S., Haddon, L., & Ólafsson, K. (2009). What do we know about children’s use of online technologies? A report on data availability and research gaps in Europe, 2nd ed. London: EU Kids Online Network.

Statista (2021). Most popular social networks worldwide as of July 2021, ranked by number of active users. Available at: (accessed October 07, 2021).

Stoilova, M., Livingstone, S., & Khazbak, R. (2021). Investigating Risks and Opportunities for Children in a Digital World: A rapid review of the evidence on children’s internet use and outcomes. Innocenti Discussion Paper 2020-03. UNICEF Office of Research: Innocenti, Florence.

Stecher, S., Bamberger, A., Gebel, C., & Brüggen, N. (2021). „Ältermachen ist immer die Faustregel.“ Online-Angebote, Datenauswertung und personalisierte Werbung aus Sicht von Jugendlichen. ACT ON! Short Report Nr. 8. Ausgewählte Ergebnisse der Monitoring-Studie. München: JFF – Institut für Medienpädagogik in Forschung und Praxis.

Strübing, J. (2014). Grounded Theory und Theoretical Sampling. In N. Baur, & J. Blasius (eds.), Handbuch Methoden der Empirischen Sozialforschung (pp. 457-472). Wiesbaden: Springer.

Sukalla, F. (2018). Narrative Persuasion und Einstellungsdissonanz. Wiesbaden: Springer.

Tuck, H., & Silverman, T. (2016). Counter-narrative Handbook. London: ISD.

United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) (2017). Children in a digital world. The state of the world’s children report. New York.

Valentini, D., Lorusso, A. M., & Stephan, A. (2020). Onlife Extremism: Dynamic Integration of Digital and Physical Spaces in Radicalization. Frontiers in Psychology, 11, 524.

van Eerten, J.J., Doosje, B., Konijn, E., de Graaf, B., & de Goede, M. (2019). Challenging Extremist Views on Social Media. Developing a Counter-Messaging Response. London: Routledge.

Walsh, M., & Gansewig, A. (2019/20). A Former Right-Wing Extremist in School-based Pre-vention Work: Research Findings from Germany. Journal for Deradicalization, 21, 1-42.

Walsh, M., & Gansewig, A. (2021). Long-Term Experience Means Professionalization – Or Does It? An in-depth look on the Involvement of Former Extremists in German Prevention and Education. Journal for Deradicalization, 27, 108-145.

Whittaker, J., Looney, S., Reed, A., & Votta, F. (2021). Recommender systems and the ampli-fication of extremist content. Internet Policy Review, 10(2).

Williams, M., Horgan, J., & Evans, W. (2016). Evaluation of a Multi-Faceted, U.S. Communi-ty-Based, Muslim-Led CVE Program. Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice.

Xiao, M., Wang, R., & Chan-Olmsted, S. (2018). Factors affecting YouTube influencer mar-keting credibility: A heuristic-systematic model. Journal of Media Business Studies, 15(3), 188-213.

Zannettou, S., Chatzis, S., K. Papadamou, K., & Sirivianos, M. (2018). The Good, the Bad and the Bait: Detecting and Characterizing Clickbait on YouTube. IEEE Security and Priva-cy Workshops (SPW), 63-69.

Zimmermann, D., Noll, C., Gräßer, L., Hugger, K.U., Braun, L.M., Nowak, T., & Kaspar, K. (2020). Influencers on YouTube: a quantitative study on young people’s use and perception of videos about political and societal topics. Curr Psychol.