America’s domestic extremists are flocking to cryptocurrency and have raised millions of dollars from crypto donations over the last several years. Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other extremist figures are not new to cryptocurrency – indeed, some of these individuals were among its early adopters, and have received cryptocurrency donations since at least 2016. But this milieu has, out of necessity, more rapidly embraced cryptocurrency since the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, which prompted many financial services providers to deplatform certain extremist groups. This has made Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies an attractive digital alternative for many domestic extremists.
Our research highlights three important ways that domestic extremists use cryptocurrencies. First, they receive donations from supporters for content they produce, such as video streams, podcasts, and message boards. Second, extremist groups take cryptocurrency as payment for merchandise, such as apparel, books, and accessories. In these cases, cryptocurrency payment often exists alongside more traditional payment methods, supplementing rather than supplanting credit cards, debit cards, and other forms of payment. Third, domestic extremists solicit cryptocurrency to support their operations, such as paying for legal defense, purchasing supplies (including VPNs), or providing support to a group or to individuals.
Crypto for Content
Content streams have proven to be a relatively lucrative source of cryptocurrency financing for extremists, aided by the rise of platforms such as the video streaming service DLive, the social networking site Minds, and the video hosting service BitChute. For example, as the January 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol unfolded, some of the rioters took to livestreaming it on DLive, a site popular with extremists due to its minimal moderation. Anthime “Tim” Gionet, better known by the moniker “Baked Alaska,” raked in over $2,000 from his livestream of the riot – which included him breaking into Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s office. Gionet raised this amount using “lemons,” DLive’s virtual currency. DLive allows viewers to buy lemons using cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin, Ethereum, and USD Coin. Viewers can send the lemons to streamers as tips, which the streamers can then cash out of their DLive accounts as currency.
Even before the events of January 6, Megan Squire, a computer science professor at Elon University, discovered that several known extremists were earning five to six figures annually from their DLive streams. These included, among others, Nick Fuentes, the host of the America First podcast that spreads the tenets of the white nationalist movement, and Martin Sellner of Generation Identity, an Austrian citizen who “became infamous for corresponding with” Brenton Tarrant, who killed 51 Muslim worshippers in New Zealand in 2019. (Tarrant’s video of the attack and manifesto were posted on the online message board Kiwi Farms, which itself accepts cryptocurrency donations, including Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum, Monero, and Cardano.)
According to Squire, Nick Fuentes, who is also a leader of the white nationalist and antisemitic group Groyper Army, raised roughly $94,000 on DLive between April 2020 and January 2021. Fuentes also received a bitcoin donation that came out to nearly $250,000 in December 2020 from a French donor who was eventually identified as Laurent Bachelier. DLive banned Fuentes from the platform after the Capitol riot.
Other groups within the white supremacist ecosystem that solicit cryptocurrency donations include The Right Stuff (TRS), a neo-Nazi media network founded and run by Michael “Enoch” Peinovich. Peinovich’s claim to fame is creating the antisemitic “(((echo)))” meme, which other antisemitic figures began to use on social media platforms to denote Jewish names. Among the shows that TRS hosts are Fash the Nation and The Daily Shoah, which promote Holocaust denialism and white supremacy. TRS’s website solicits cryptocurrency donations in Bitcoin, Dogecoin, Bitcoin Cash, Monero, and Ethereum.
The Daily Stormer is a neo-Nazi message board and propaganda site run by Andrew Anglin with assistance from webmaster Andrew “weev” Auernheimer. Anglin was an early adopter of cryptocurrency and is known to possess at least 200 Bitcoin wallet addresses. The Daily Stormer’s name is a nod to the Nazi-era propaganda sheet Der Stürmer. The website frequently promotes neo-Nazism, white supremacy, racism, and antisemitism. Though the website publicly claims to reject violence, it posts content implicitly threatening violence against racial and ethnic minorities, including black people and Jews. The Daily Stormer previously accepted donations in Bitcoin, but now only accepts Monero – a privacy coin that claims to be virtually untraceable – due to concerns over Bitcoin’s lack of complete anonymity.
Notably, The Daily Stormer received a donation of 14.88 bitcoins in the aftermath of the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally – worth more than $60,000 at the time – to keep the site afloat as web service providers began to cut the site off. The amount of the donation is an explicit reference to popular white supremacist slogans. The 14 is a reference to the late white supremacist David Lane’s “14 Words”: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.” The 88 stands for Heil Hitler, with H being the eighth letter of the alphabet – thus 88 in this context denotes HH. A forensic analysis of the donation found that the sender possessed $25 million in Bitcoin.
Stormfront, another white supremacist message board, accepts donations in Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin. Like Anglin, Stormfront creator Don Black was an early adopter of cryptocurrency. Several people who have perpetrated white supremacist violence have posted on Stormfront, with the most notorious being Anders Breivik, whose July 2011 attacks in Norway claimed 77 lives.
Counter-Currents is a media outlet run by Greg Johnson that advocates for the creation of a white ethno-state. The outlet is a prolific publisher of articles, podcasts, and books, and is somewhat distinctive compared to other white nationalist outlets in its employment of an academic-type tone. Counter-Currents accepts donations in over 10 kinds of cryptocurrency, including Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, and Monero.
White Rabbit Radio is a white nationalist media platform hosted by Timothy Gallagher Murdock, who uses the pseudonym Horus the Avenger. Murdock is an advocate of the great replacement conspiracy theory, which posits that non-white immigration and race mixing are intentionally destroying the white race. The website accepts donations in Bitcoin, Monero, Cardano, Ethereum, Litecoin, and other cryptocurrencies.
Crypto for Commodities
A quick Internet search will reveal an abundance of extremist merchandise available for purchase, often with cryptocurrency. Shirts saying “6MWE” (a Holocaust reference that stands for 6 Million Wasn’t Enough) have been spotted at protests held by the Proud Boys, and an individual wearing a “Camp Auschwitz” sweatshirt was among the mob that assaulted the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. Selling merchandise can help to both sustain a group financially and spread its message to a broader audience.
Merchandise also functions as a membership-identifying and membership-promoting device. As Daniel J. Rogers, co-founder and chief technology officer of the Global Disinformation Index, noted in Congressional testimony, “merchandise also acts like a team jersey for the hate groups, bolstering the narrative itself and helping the groups recruit new members.”
The Rise Above Movement (RAM) exemplifies the potential of white supremacist merchandising. RAM is an independent white supremacist group that combines skinheads’ emphasis on street fighting with slick marketing. RAM operates a merchandise and media arm dubbed Will2Rise (W2R), which sells t-shirts, accessories, stickers, bottoms, and outerwear. W2R advertises what it calls an “ethical supply chain,” proudly stating that all its products are manufactured in Eastern Europe, “so not a single hand touches the production that is not of like mind.” W2R’s merchandise can be purchased with Bitcoin, Cardano, Ethereum, Polkadot, and Litecoin.
Nick Fuentes operates an America First-themed store that accepts cryptocurrency. People wearing America First merchandise were among the mob that stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021. The store features shirts, flags, hats, and mugs, along with a seasonal collection titled “White Boy Summer,” all of which can be purchased with Litecoin.
Crypto for Costs
Extremist groups and individuals frequently request cryptocurrency donations to pay for various costs. Such requests can be for specific uses, such as legal defense funds, but most solicitations tend not to include earmarks and function instead as donations for general support.
Jason Kessler, the organizer of the Unite the Right rally, sought…