Twitter closes alt-right accounts amid fight against hatred, abuse

Twitter has suspended the accounts of some high-profile figures of the alt-right (a.k.a. white supremacists) as the company continues its efforts to fight hate speech and online abuse.

Tuesday, the San Francisco company announced that it’s rolling out new tools to allow users to filter out slurs and other keywords, Queenie Wong reported. But what Twitter didn’t announce, and what became clear later in the day, is that it also suspended the accounts of people such as Richard Spencer, USA Today reported.

Spencer runs the National Policy Institute, a white nationalist think tank based in Virginia that also had its account suspended. He wasn’t happy.

In a YouTube video posted Tuesday, he said: “I am alive physically but digitally speaking there has been execution squads across the alt right. This is corporate Stalinism. There is a great purge going on and they are purging people based on their views.”

“I think Twitter and I’m sure Facebook, too, and some others, are deeply triggered by Trump’s election,” Spencer said. “I think they’re triggered by narrative that social media helped elect Trump and that they have to do something about it.”

Trump’s camp has given credit to social media for its victory.

Other Twitter accounts suspended include that of former Business Insider CTO Pax Dickinson, Ricky Vaughn, Paul Town and John Rivers, according to USA Today.

While declining to comment on the suspended accounts, Twitter told the newspaper: “Twitter Rules prohibit targeted abuse and harassment, and we will suspend accounts that violate this policy.”

Members of the alt-right movement don’t like to be called white supremacists, the Associated Press reported recently. They prefer the terms “Europeanists” or “white nationalists.” Spencer, 38, who was quoted in that story, said he wants African-Americans, Hispanics and Jews removed from the United States. He also said that although Trump has disavowed white supremacists such as David Duke, “trust me. Trump thinks like me. Do you think it’s a coincidence that everybody like me loves Trump and supports him?”

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights nonprofit group, told USA Today it had asked Twitter to get rid of more than 100 white-supremacist accounts.

Earlier this year, Twitter permanently banned Milo Yiannopoulos, an editor for right-wing site Breitbart who had been repeatedly warned by the social network about harassment. The last straw was his being accused of inciting online abuse toward Leslie Jones, an African-American comedian and actress.

Twitter’s “purge” of accounts and renewed efforts to combat abuse on its platform this week come after reports that the company, which had put itself up for sale, may have missed out on bids from Disney and partly because of its inability to contain the trolling problem.

It also comes as the president-elect has named Steve Bannon, executive chairman of Breitbart News, as his chief strategist.


Photo from AFP/Getty Images


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  • Lew Williams

    free speech? Where did it go?