In an effort to curb the growing issue of hate speech and online abuse, social media website Twitter suspended several high-profile user accounts associated with the alt-right movement, which has been linked to white nationalism.
The move comes amid a recent surge in hate crimes and racially charged acts of intimidation following the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency last Tuesday. The social media giant has since debuted a series of new actions to crack down on such deplorable behavior on its platform.
In the past, the company has been criticized for its slow response to reports of online abuse and racism, such as the incident earlier this year when Black SNL comedienne Leslie Jones was subjected to a barrage of disgustingly racist comments from Breitbart writer and high-profile alt-right member Milo Yiannopoulos. But now Twitter is taking measures to protect its users and ensure a hate-free social environment.
According to NPR, suspended accounts include those of Richard Spencer, considered to be a founding member of the alt-right movement; Spencer’s magazine Radix Journal; an associated account, @_AltRight_; and his Virginia-based think tank, the National Policy Institute. On its website, the institute even describes itself as a company “dedicated to the heritage, identity and future of people of European descent in the United States and around the world.”
The Twitter accounts of prominent alt-right activists Pax Dickinson (ex-chief technology officer of “Business Insider”), Ricky Vaughn, Paul Town and John Rivers were also terminated.
In a YouTube video, Spencer likened Twitter’s new anti-troll policies to “corporate Stalinism.”
“There is a great purge going on and they’re purging people on the basis of their views,” the alt-right founder told The Daily Caller. “This is a clear sign that we have power. … We have power and we’re changing the world and they’re not going to put up with it anymore.”
“I am alive physically, but digitally speaking, there has been execution squads across the alt-right,” Spencer said.
In a list of rules clearly outlined under its general online policies, Twitter prohibits all forms of violent threats, harassment, hateful content or multiple account abuse and threatens to suspend the account(s) of any user who violates these rules. The site also bans references to mass murder or violence, self-harm, degrading language and repeated slurs aimed at specific groups of people.
“We believe that everyone should have the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers. In order to protect the experience and safety of people who use Twitter, there are some limitations on the type of content and behavior that we allow,” the social media site states. “All users must adhere to the policies set forth in the Twitter Rules.”
As an added defense against hate speech, Twitter recently unveiled a tool that allows users to report and/or completely “mute” offensive words, phrases or conversations from popping up on their timelines. The company also gave users broader powers to report hateful content, whether they be a victim or a bystander of online abuse.
For years, Twitter touted itself as a “free speech” social media site with a hands-off approach to monitoring offensive or hateful content, USA Today reported. But as the website grew larger and more popular, company leaders saw a sharp uptick in online abuse, harassment and hate speech.
“We don’t expect these [new] announcements to suddenly remove abusive conduct from Twitter,” the company wrote in a blog post earlier this week. “No single action by us would do that. Instead, we commit to rapidly improving Twitter based on everything we observe and learn.”
Though the social media giant’s new policies left several alt-right members high and dry, Cornell University law professor James Grimmelmann said the private company is NOT obligated to provide an online forum for white nationalists to express their views.
“This is not a constituency in imminent danger of having its viewpoints shut down by the powers that be in the United States,” Grimmelmann said. “We just had an election that proved that there are really ample chances for people espousing strong right-wing racist views to get their views heard.”