#TwitterPurge begins as company suspends accounts deemed hateful, violent
Twitter has deactivated the account of the far-right British activist behind those anti-Muslim tweets of videos, retweeted by President Trump. Nathan Rousseau Smith (@FantasticMrNate) reports.
Twitter administrators on Monday began suspending or closing social media accounts they deemed to be hateful, threatening or glorifying violence, among them the accounts of prominent white nationalists who called the move a “purge” and attack on free speech.
Among those accounts suspended Monday are those of white nationalist Jared Taylor and his American Renaissance group, and British far-right activists Jayda Fransen and Paul Golding, along with the American Nazi Party.
Later in the day, Twitter suspended an account belonging to the New Black Panther Party, which the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as a "virulently racist and anti-Semitic organization" that encourages violence against whites and Jews.
As a private company, Twitter has the legal right to block any speech it wants, since the First Amendment only applies to government control of speech. But for years, Twitter billed itself as the "free speech wing of the free speech party," exerting little control over its legions of anonymous users.
Under pressure to jumpstart stagnant user growth, the San Francisco-based company has recently taken a more restrictive approach as it tries to address years of complaints about rampant harassment, which in turn drives many users away.
Twitter says the suspensions – some are temporary and some are permanent – will help make the social-media platform better for the vast majority of its 330 million monthly active users.
“While we want people to feel free to share media that reflects their creativity or individuality, or to show what’s happening in the world, we will take action when it crosses the line into abuse towards a person, group, or protected category,” the company said.
Hateful imagery includes logos, symbols, or images aimed at promoting hostility and malice based on race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity/national origin. It will also permanently suspend accounts whose profile includes violent threats, slurs, or "racist or sexist tropes." It contains exemptions for government officials and the military.
Twitter has been criticized for inconsistency in enforcing or providing transparency into its policies, most recently when it explained — and then seemed to correct the explanation — for why it allowed Pres. Trump's retweets of unverified anti-Muslim videos posted by Britain First. The anti-immigration organization led by Fransen and Golding has been termed a hate group by some British lawmakers, and the videos were shown to have false or misleading captions.
On Monday, Twitter users sympathetic with the white nationalists booted from the platform added the hashtag #twitterpurge to blame the company for playing favorites and said it was silencing voices for offering unpopular opinions. Some turned to an alternative social media service, Gab, to continue their conversation.
White nationalist Richard Spencer's account remained active on Monday, and he tweeted that he'd lost more than 100 followers as the suspensions began.
"As of now, I don't see any systematic method to the #TwitterPurge. I've lost more than a hundred followers in 24 hrs, but lots of pro-White accounts ... remain. Haphazard.
“I thought censoring people you disagreed with was fascist? Oh but you're the good guys... right?,” wrote the account Kekistan MoD, which also posted an image of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey doctored to look like a Soviet leader, complete with the hammer and sickle.
Users who protest the suspension can appeal. “In our efforts to be more aggressive here, we may make some mistakes,” Twitter said in a statement Monday.
The Anti-Defamation League commended Twitter for the move, calling the latest actions "encouraging." "Transparency about their guidelines can build trust between users and the general public even further," said ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt in a tweet.
Twitter has suspended or made less visible white nationalists and other leaders associated with the far-right following criticism it allowed the service to be used as an organizing tool for extremist groups.
In November, the company withdrew “verified” status, marked by a small blue checkmark, from the accounts of multiple white nationalists, including Richard Spencer and Jason Kessler, organizer of the Charlottesville white supremacist rally.
And in July, Twitter permanently banned conservative writer and activist Milo Yiannopoulos after he and his followers launched a harassment campaign against actress and comedian Lesley Jones.
Twitter shares rallied 11% Monday after J.P. Morgan upgraded the stock (TWTR), forecasting strong user growth and profitability next year.