On Tuesday, 38-year-old Nasim Aghdam walked into YouTube’s San Bruno headquarters with a 9-millimeter handgun in tow. She opened fire on a crowd of employees in a courtyard, injuring three before killing herself.
“It is believed the suspect was upset with the policies and practices of YouTube,” San Bruno police chief Ed Barberini said in a statement. Aghdam’s family has said the same, telling reporters that she was angry with the company, which she claimed was purposefully demonetizing her videos. Some outlets have tied this to recent events, citing YouTube’s late-2017 “Adpocalypse” and the company’s more recent crackdown on content as the primary motivation for Aghdam’s attack.
But Aghdam left behind a lengthy online history that reveals her relationship with the company was not so simple. Under the name Nasim Sabz, an identity that law enforcement confirmed she used online, there are hundreds of videos and photos posted over several years across various interlinked accounts. YouTube and other services have removed almost all of her accounts, but The Outline has pieced them together through internet archives, Aghdam’s own website, and her Telegram channel (her family declined a request for comment). “Nasim alien artist” is one example, a minute-long video which opens with this description from Aghdam herself: “Nasim, known as Green Nasim, this great athlete and artist, with an outstanding intelligence and ability, was sent from a greater civilization to this dark planet.”
The first frame is an awkwardly cropped shot of Aghdam’s face, on the right, a photoshopped image of her mid-dance, mouth gaping. It only lasts a second before cutting to a screenshot of one of her many YouTube channels, then to a poorly photoshopped photo of Aghdam wearing a camouflage bodysuit in space. The parade of images continues as Aghdam narrates in Persian (translated here to English), monotonously:
Through her talents she would awaken the inhabitants of Earth. And she was one of the most successful activists, especially among the land of the Turks and Fars. But the Satans of the Earth have become aware of her and have worked to prevent her from sharing her thoughts and messages. Her talents in different artistic fields is extraordinary. Poetry, acting, comedy, dance, video editing, crafts. For example, two famous Turk youtubers [Niqma and Yurakok] have talked about her. The music videos and [parodies] of Nasim have a lot of Turk fans in Turkish lands. And if she weren't suppressed, she would have become one of the biggest Youtube Creators. She was suppressed because she had humanitarian beliefs. She knew of behind-the-scenes conspiracies and was wise. She was not an encourager of the system. She was for wisdom, logic, and truth. She was Nasim.
Posted on November 9, 2017, “Nasim alien artist” is one of the thousands of videos and images uploaded by Aghdam in her apparent quest to become “one of the biggest Youtube Creators.”
Her first YouTube account, Nasim Wonder1, was made on Sep 20, 2010. Over the next five years she would go on to make at least three more — Nasime Sabz (2013), Nasim Handmades (2014), and Yesil Nasim (2015) — which she used to upload video after video with titles like: "Want Traffic Free Sex," "Beyoncé - (My Butt) Partition Music Video Parody," "If Rape Is Bad,” and "First Persian Vegan TV Commercial - Nasim."
Aghdam got a taste of YouTube stardom back in May 2015, when her video “Meme Balonlı Kız” (Boob Balloon Girl) went viral. A 2016 KnowYourMeme entry described it as “mocking breast implants and carnivore lifestyle.” The post about Aghdam was removed soon after, citing a “lack of notability.”
Despite the grandiose claims in many of her videos, none of her many YouTube channels gained substantial views following “Meme Balonlı Kız.” According to data obtained from third party metrics site SocialBlade, the monthly views of nearly every account stagnated in the years following her viral video. According to Google cache information from February, the videos uploaded to Nasime Sabz account over the last six months garnered between 100-20,000 views each (with the vast majority under 600 views). Her most popular account, Nasime Sabz, garnered 4,891,665 views across 242 videos over the course of its five-year lifespan, according to SocialBlade data. And though this may sound like a lot, it’s actually pretty low in comparison to most established YouTube Partners.
Aghdam made countless posts about the practice of monetizing videos on her websites over the years, mostly about her difficulties in doing so. SocialBlade data indicates that Nasime Sabz likely netted her around $184 a month. (That is, assuming Aghdam was making the average YouTube ad rate of $2 per thousand views.) Her other channels earned even less, likely due to the obscene nature of the content posted, most of which is in direct violation of YouTube’s (and Google’s) content policies, and generally contained pretty toxic subjects for advertisers. Some of Aghdam’s most popular videos featured titles such as “Hyena Attacked By Men & Dogs Animal Cruelty,” “Killing Dogs In Iran (Photos) Animal Cruelty,” and “Pet Dog Cooked Alive China - Graphic Animal Torture.” Aghdam said the “Satans of the Earth” at Google and YouTube held back her success, and bemoaned the companies’ “suppression” of her content repeatedly across her platforms. Claims of victimization appear to have made their way into nearly every account held by Aghdam, even those that appeared to be explicitly for comedy or vegan activist purposes.
In 2015, Aghdam alleged that Google was discriminating against her personal website (nasimesabz.com) because of the numerous gruesome images of dead and dying animals she had uploaded in the name of veganism.
“To Them, Fighting Violence Is Considered Promotion Of Violence & Refused To Promote It!” wrote Aghdam in a post on nasimeabz.com. “Even On Youtube, They Keep My Channels Specially English Channel From Growing. They Discriminate Against Smart & Moral Minds Who Can Have Great Awakening Impact Cause Our Growth Is Not Good For Those Who Fool Simple Minded People To Make Big Easy Money From Immoral Businesses…”
Aghdam posted similar allegations to the website of her short-lived non-profit “PeaceThunder,” writing that “LIES, CENSORSHIP & SUPPRESSION IS ABOUT ANYTHING AND EVERYWHERE (IN SCHOOLS, MEDIA, INTERNET,...).”
“SPECIALLY WHEN IT COMES TO MORAL VALUES,” she continued, “BECAUSE GREEDY CORRUPT RULERS MAKE MORE & EASY MONEY FROM IMMORALITY & DO ANYTHING (FOOL PEOPLE, PROMOTE WRONGNESS,...) JUST TO GAIN PERSONAL BENEFITS.”
In 2015, Aghdam posted another allegation of discrimination to her site, this time claiming that an error message in Google’s search results were a blatant attack on her free speech.
“At top of link they add ‘An Error Occurred’? But there is no error.” said Aghdam “They add it to scare you from visiting my website. DO NOT LET THEM FOOL YOU! Simply click on link & it takes you to my page. This proves how wrong they are because they don’t want you to know the truth about immoral businesses & beliefs promoted in society by corrupt systems that care about nothing but personal short term profits! This is how they fight freedom of belief / speech in western countries.”
In 2016, she changed her Google+ account name to “Nasim Vegan Suppressed,” a moniker she would go on to use for years in posts all across the web. It appeared in the tags of a January 2017 video entitled “Do Meat Eaters Insult God?” The same account was used to post a video entitled “I’m Being Discriminated Filtered On YouTube! Nasim” later that year.
When YouTube began demonetizing videos en masse in late 2017, Aghdam appeared to grow more outraged. She posted screenshots of her low ad revenue online: “300,000 views is $0.10,” she wrote, citing the so-called “Adpocalypse” as the reason for such a low return. However, she failed to address that the screenshot in question was taken two years before YouTube’s stricter demonetization rules went into play.
Aghdam never publicly explored the possibility that her videos may have been demonetized for years, before and after the Adpocalypse, because they featured blatant animal cruelty, rather than because of an algorithmic change. Still, the event became the scapegoat for her misfortune; at a time when many more high profile YouTube users were complaining about Google’s oppression too. She embedded their videos into the most recent version of her website (which is still live), as if to say “I told you so.” But her prolific body of content indicates she’d resented the platform long before, for complicated reasons, and that by the time of the Adpocalypse, there was relatively little to take away. It’s impossible to ascribe any logic to this type of violence; we may never know what drove her to it.