Opinion: Don't let the banned Andrew Tate be a martyr

Andrew Tate

On-and-on the commentary around Andrew Tate goes. Granted, his rhetoric is dangerous, but bearing witness to all this backlash and blocking is his audience.

Today I want to ask, are we considering how they will see this?

ICYMI: Facebook and Instagram - sorry, Meta - booted Tate from its platforms.

We know who his audience is, because the impact he has on the world is primarily through his impact on their views: impressionable young men.

The beliefs he spews are vile and numerous. They include - but are certainly not limited to - women belonging in the home, women being unable to drive and that a woman is a man's property.

He's quoted as saying it's easier to get off rape charges in Eastern Europe, which was "40% of the reason I moved to Romania".

So upfront, I want to be explicit; this isn't a defence of him. But I'm not here to indict him either. The danger his views pose are well-documented by others.

No, I want to discuss the role the platforms - Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and YouTube - have had in his meteoric rise to internet stardom before they kicked him to the curb. Far, far too late if I may add.

Facebook and Instagram - sorry, Meta - say Tate was banned for violating its policies on dangerous organisations and individuals. But that had been the case for a long time.

For that reason, Tate was called out from many corners of the internet at once, and that should've been enough.

Communities should be able to moderate themselves because the moderate view should naturally be the most common, it being moderate and all. But very often, they aren't - and that's thanks to algorithms.

Social media algorithms are complicated, but anecdotally, we can all attest to a simple fact - it shows us more of what we consume.

They provide a way to sort our feeds by relevance, and they decide what's relevant based on what you're interested in.

So if you consume Tate's videos you're going to get more, and more, until eventually, you're a student of the hustle (If you don't understand the end of that sentence, just hold on for three more). Thanks to the algorithm, dissenting content struggles to reach these young men.

Now that's one side of the coin; the other is Tate himself, and how ingeniously he's played the hand he was dealt.

A huge part of his rise is that Hustler's University, the get-rich-quick course (and alleged Ponzi scheme) was built around the goal of making him popular (It's so meta I almost called it Facebook and Instagram again).

At its height, this unaccredited online 'academy' boasted at least 140,000 people on its Discord servers. And the job of this legion for the last little while has been to publish videos of Tate everywhere. They're incentivised to do that because until recently, they got a meaningful commission on anyone they brought into the 'university' through the link attached to the video.

But now, he's gone.

Meta and Twitter have used the 'break glass in case of emergency' option of banning him from their platform, and for a very simple reason - the platforms' algorithms, designed to spread his messages, means that's the only tool they have left to combat harmful rhetoric.

But when it comes to Tate, banning him is only half the job. That rhetoric survives online in countless videos on countless accounts. In the shadow of his banning, this content becomes the only way to keep his rhetoric alive, a mission many have taken up.

We need to show young men why these messages are wrong, not what happens to them if they think they're right.

But because of the way our social media ecosystem is set up, we are now in triage, harmful views spreading as quickly as a novel coronavirus. And now - like a lockdown - eliminating them is all the option we have left. There's a reason they call videos 'viral'.

This won't work forever though.

Take TikTok. It’s banned an account related to him, but his hashtag has still racked up 13 billion views and counting.

It's the best move we can make in the present situation, but now we need to cure the misinformation that's already in the community.

If we don't, community transmission will continue, and in a bit of a Covid role-reversal, it is youngsters who are now most at risk.

The sites that have banned him are the very platforms which let it get to this point.

This ecosystem is in their control, and an inability to moderate itself does not excuse it of the need to be moderated.