The media, as a result, has been fumbling with how to cover Trump and his transition team, often downplaying appointed individuals’ white nationalist ideological views as “controversial” or “outsider.” This tactic has drawn criticism from journalists and the public, who have condemned the use of “alt-right” as a sanitized term that obscures racism.
But one man is using technology to hold the media accountable. He created a Google Chrome browser extension “Stop Normalizing Alt Right” that replaces any mention of the term “alt-right” with “white supremacy.”
According to the plugin’s creator, when it comes to advertising and media, messaging is paramount. So far, it’s working: Stop Normalizing’s Facebook shares has jumped to 36,000, and the number of installations has grown to almost 1,000 since the app hit the Chrome Web Store November 17.
“There’s a lot of soul-searching going on and we want that soul-searching not to rise into a white nationalist movement. Social media and history have shown how quickly these movements can spiral out of control,” said the browser extension’s creator, who we’re calling George. He spoke to ThinkProgress under the condition of pseudonymity as a safety precaution.
“How you frame a debate is super important,” George added. “There’s millions of people forming opinions about what alt-right is. Is it close to their ideology? Is it different?”
The plugin is modest, a simple word switch, but it’s part of a larger strategy to challenge mainstream media organizations and journalists who use the softer term “alt-right” without context.
“Social media and history have shown how quickly these movements can spiral out of control.”
Stop Normalizing is reminiscent of a similar browser extension with the opposite message, Coincidence Detector, which highlighted Jewish names, civil liberties groups, and others considered to have anti-White nationalist views based on a user-generated list. Google pulled the app in June, saying it violated the company’s hate speech policies.
George told ThinkProgress he created his extension mainly to raise awareness on social media and create bipartisan support.
“The goal is trying to bring people together who don’t identify with the alt-right. There’s a lot of strength in bringing people together who are different politically,” he said.
George hopes that the extension shows the power individual voices and creators have even when the media is at odds with itself.
“No one’s going to tell Mark Zuckerberg what to do or the media what to do,” he said. And if the recent controversy over Facebook facilitating the spread of fake news teaches us anything, he said, it’s that “you can put something out that gets attention and potentially change outcomes, it shows the power of independent creators…If I’m not doing anything to fight this or push back beyond a retweet, then I am part of the problem.”
In addition to the Chrome browser extension, George is also working on a version for Firefox and a Twitter bot that “corrects” media organization’s tweets.
“We’re engaged in lots of little acts of defiance around this to help change things, change narratives, and help people realize what side they’re on,” George said.