Twitter has initiated a major purge of prominent accounts associated with the alt-right exactly a week after GOP President-elect Donald Trump’s stunning electoral victory.
One of the first and most prominent accounts caught up in the deletion is Richard Spencer, president and director of the National Policy Institute, an alt-right think tank focused on white identity and related policy issues.
Twitter removed Spencer’s verified account, formerly available at @RichardBSpencer, Tuesday evening.
“This is corporate Stalinism,” Richard Spencer told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Twitter is trying to airbrush the Alt Right out of existence. They’re clearly afraid. They will fail!”
Not only did Twitter kill Spencer’s personal account, but Twitter also suspended the National Policy Institute’s official account (@npiamerica) and its online magazine (@RadixJournal), in addition to a separate book publishing company run by Spencer called Washington Summit Publishers (@washsummit).
The ban took place the same day Spencer appeared on NPR and The Daily Show.
Numerous Twitter users expressed shock at the suspension, while others tried to come up with explanations for the purge.
Paul Town, one of the alt-right trolls responsible for feeding Olivia Nuzzi at The Daily Beast a false and outlandish narrative on how Pepe the cartoon frog came to be associated with white nationalism, was also suspended.
Other suspended users, among many, include Pax Dickinson, Ricky Vaughn and John Rivers — all notable alt-right accounts.
Several Twitter users noted that the mass bans could be a result of new reporting features the company added to prevent “hate against a race, religion, gender, or orientation,” as part of a policy change.
The move by Twitter threatens to diminish the explosive power of the alt-right, which has made use of Twitter to brutally troll journalists and political pundits, in addition to supporting Trump and spreading its political philosophy in front of millions of people.
Just last week, Amelia Tait at New Statesman noted that the alt-right’s influence has surged, largely in part due to its use of social media networks. As she put it, the “alt-right – a new political movement of individuals with racist and misogynist viewpoints, who exist primarily on the internet – have thrived under Trump’s candidacy, and remained mostly unchecked by social media giants.”
Tait argued that social media giants need to “improve the way they deal with trolls, vitriol, and death threats on their sites.”
Charlie Warzel at BuzzFeed News recently made the case that Twitter was essential to Trump’s wildly successful campaign and has also resulted in the “empowerment of the insurgent political movement of the alt-right who, through a coordinated effort of trolling and online organization, drove enthusiasm and momentum against the establishment and for Trump.”
While Twitter has in the past slowly cracked down on accounts near the alt-right, such as those of WeSearchr CEO Chuck Johnson and journalist Milo Yiannopoulos, the major purge Tuesday evening of prominent alt-right accounts is so far unprecedented.
In response to the purges, many alt-right users are heading over to Gab, a Twitter substitute platform with a much more aggressive free speech policy.
Twitter told TheDCNF that it changed its policies Tuesday about what sort of content is allowed on the social media site. The rule change is available on Twitter’s blog and reads:
Our hateful conduct policy prohibits specific conduct that targets people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease. Today we’re giving you a more direct way to report this type of conduct for yourself, or for others, whenever you see it happening. This will improve our ability to process these reports, which helps reduce the burden on the person experiencing the abuse, and helps to strengthen a culture of collective support on Twitter.
Nu Wexler, who works in policy communications at Twitter, provided the rule change to TheDCNF and also stated, “We don’t comment on individual accounts, but it looks like at least one of these was suspended well before today,” referring to the account of Ricky Vaughn, a prominent figure of the alt-right was has reappeared repeatedly on Twitter, only to be banned about as many times.
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