August 1, 2021

The Business of Hate: Bankrolling Bigotry in Germany and the Online Funding of Hate Groups

Key Takeaways1/3

Direct bank transfers are reportedly the most frequently used online funding mechanisms by the German groups investigated. In this study, 88% of the entities analysed in this study allegedly use this method to bankroll their activities.

The Global Disinformation Index (GDI) and Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) have published a new study which shows how 17 known German far right groups and actors allegedly use 20 different online funding services to fund their activities.

These services include credit card companies (American Express, Mastercard, Visa), payment platforms (Paypal, Square, Stripe), bank transfer services (Giropay, Klarna), online shopping (WooCommerce) and donation services ( Patreon, GiveWP). 

All 20 of these different services were found on the websites of these far right groups and actors. More than half of these online funding services have Terms of Service (ToS) that should prohibit their use by such sites.

In total, the study identified 79 instances where these different online funding channels were being used by these far right  groups and actors. They all are under observation by Germany's domestic intelligence body, or have material links to these groups. The groups include the NPD party, the magazine Compact, and the Identitarian movement (“Identitäre Bewegung Deutschland”), as well as influencers, like Attila Hildmann.

Key findings from the research include:

  • Direct bank transfers are used by 15 of the 17 groups analysed.
  • WooCommerce is the most frequently used service by over half of the groups and actors. 
  • Cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin, are reportedly used by three of the groups and actors.
  • Facebook shops are used by three of these  groups and actors, including the NPD party.  

The study puts a spotlight on how these online funding channels allegedly provide a financial lifeline to well-known German extremist groups and actors, many of which have escalated their activities ahead of the country’s federal elections on 26 September 2021. 

Huberta von Voss, executive director ISD Germany: “We see clear gaps in enforcement and policy loopholes that allow hate groups in Germany to fund work which threatens German democracy and society.”

In Germany, the new government should make de-funding extremist movements a key priority while the EU Digital Services Act (DSA) should push regulation to stop online funding of hate.

Clare Melford, co-founder and executive director of GDI: “We need these online funding services to update, enforce and align their policies to stop the funding of hate groups and disinformation actors.”

About the study

The research focused on 17 German right-wing extremist groups and entities, which are currently being observed by Germany's domestic intelligence body, or have material links to these groups under observation. 

Methodology

We utilised a combination of advanced web searches as well as Javelin+, a proprietary social listening software. For entities that have websites, the research team used BuiltWith to analyse the source code. This was done to identify indirect payment platforms as well as links to onsite retail, flexible fund collection or onsite donations.

We then manually reviewed and verified the data gathered, removing all false positives from that data set for the 17 organisations and actors. All online funding services identified in this report have been verified and visually documented. However, in rare instances, it may be possible that we have captured historical data or have not identified a current service in use.

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