Twitter tries to crack down on hate speech by suspending a number of accounts
Twitter suspended a handful of accounts belonging to prominent alt-right leaders and outlets Tuesday evening, including that of Richard Spencer, a leading voice in the movement. The Southern Poverty Law Center has called the alt-right “a set of far-right ideologies, groups and individuals whose core belief is that ‘white identity’ is under attack by multicultural forces using ‘political correctness’ and ‘social justice’ to undermine white people and ‘their’ civilization.” And the center has cited Spencer specifically, calling him “a suit-and-tie version of the white supremacists of old.”
The apparent crackdown on alt-right users coincides with the social media company’s announcement that users can now hide certain keywords, phrases, and even conversations as a way to shield themselves from hate speech and abuse.
“The Twitter Rules prohibit violent threats, harassment, hateful conduct, and multiple account abuse,” a spokesperson for Twitter wrote in a statement regarding the suspensions. “We will take action on accounts violating those policies.”
In addition to suspending Spencer’s verified profile, Twitter also cut off his white nationalist organization, the National Policy Institute — which dedicates itself to the “heritage, identity, and future of people of European descent in the United States, and around the world” — and Spencer’s online magazine, Radix Journal.
Other suspensions include Paul Town, Pax Dickinson, Ricky Vaughn, and John Rivers, according to USA Today, reporting that a Twitter spokesperson said, “We don’t comment on individual accounts, for privacy and security reasons.”
Twitter has suspended Vaughn, who uses a pseudonym, multiple times before, most recently in early October. Since his suspension Tuesday, Vaughn has been posting on Gab.ai, a site that’s like a blend of Twitter and Reddit and launched in August. Gab notes free speech as its core principle, and its users are mostly alt-right.
“Twitter has just done Gab a MASSIVE FAVOR,” Vaughn posted Tuesday night. “I hope that Milo, Chuck, Pax, and Richard are able to pursue a class action lawsuit against Twitter.”
“Milo” likely refers to Milo Yiannopoulos, a Breitbart reporter, whom Twitter permanently suspended in July after a wave of racist abuse on Ghostbusters remake star Leslie Jones.
Another suspended user, Dickinson, was forced to resign as chief technology officer of Business Insider in September 2013 after a history of offensive tweets about women and minorities came to light. Then in February, he complained about being “harassed” by Twitter.
“Twitter is making me and my followers paranoid and very fearful of being suspended or shadowbanned,” Dickinson wrote. “It’s really affecting some of us emotionally.”
Dickinson’s WeSearchr account, however, is still up on Twitter. WeSearchr allows users to post a “bounty” for projects that blur the line between journalism and harassment. A project titled “Let’s Open Up Megyn Kelly’s Divorce Records” is seeking $5,000.
Meanwhile, alt-right supporters have taken to other online venues to express anger over the suspensions. One user on the alt-right subreddit wrote about the suspensions under the subject line, “Confirmation that Shitter is biased against conservatives and against us and that they won’t allow us to use their platform. Watch Facebook and Reddit ban us next.”
Some also suggested switching to Gab.
Twitters users, both supportive of the alt-right and otherwise, expressed concern over the bans.
Pax Dickinson and Richard Spencer have been banned from Twitter. The left knows social media helped Trump and is cracking down.
— John Eden (@TheEnclaveIsYou) November 15, 2016
I'm on gab.ai, same handle as here… you should join… since twitter is going full censorship and stuff.
— Cassandra Fairbanks (@CassandraRules) November 16, 2016
— gab.ai/DukeNukem (@DukeNukemSez) November 16, 2016
Time to @getongab as twitter mass-purged right-wing accounts.
— Ricky Vaughn 2.0 (@moreRickyVaughn) November 16, 2016
— Matt Forney (@basedmattforney) November 15, 2016