Some Germans are having to sit through a 30-second advertisement of a refugee talking about prejudice before watching anti-immigration videos.
The organization “Refugees Welcome” has purchased advertising space on YouTube for videos containing certain keywords associated with anti-immigration groups. The ads, which cannot be skipped, show a refugee talking about prejudice and everyday life as a refugee in Germany.
Search terms where the videos will end up include “Refugees out,” “Refugees terrorist,” and “The truth about refugees.” Videos of anti-immigration group Pegida and its leader Lutz Bachmann are also subject to the ads.
One ad features Firas Alshater, who came to Germany from Syria three years ago and became an internet sensation for videos on the prejudice he faces. He opens Google on his cell phone and types in “Refugees are” and “Germans are” before reading out the suggestions that pops up. The suggestions for refugees included “freeriders” and “terrorists,” while Germans got “not human,” “stupid” and “Nazis.”
“No, that can’t be true,” he says. “I haven’t met any nazis or terrorists here.”
“Better click here, instead of listening to more prejudice,” he continues, directing viewers to a link to a website with more videos and information from the group.
“I don’t think the 30-second clips will disturb anyone,”Alshater told BBC. “It’s a chance to reach people who want to watch these far-right videos because they are afraid and need someone to help them.”
A fraction of the cost to buy an ad on YouTube goes to the person uploading the video. Refugees Welcome is therefore contributing money to the message it’s trying to stop.
“Of course, it’s painful that the uploaders are getting money from our campaign, but at the moment they only earn a few cents,” Kakoscke told BBC.
Refugees Welcome is also buying advertisements on Google for the same search terms.