Twitter faces pressure from lawmakers to combat ‘racism and bigotry’

Twitter sparked criticism last week from U.S. lawmakers who wanted the tech firm to dig deeper into how Russians might have used it to influence the 2016 presidential election.

And the pressure just keeps piling up.

Two Democratic U.S. lawmakers — Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Missouri, and Rep.¬†Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-New Jersey — sent a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey this week, urging the company to do more to combat the spread of racism and bigotry online.

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In the letter, lawmakers said Twitter “has become a platform where people feel comfortable sharing racist ideologies.” They accused the company of contributing to the violence that broke out in August at the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“We are disappointed by the silence from you and others in your industry on ways to counter such blatant manipulation of this medium to build racial animosity, the consequences of which are literally life-threatening,” the lawmakers wrote.

Last week, Twitter revealed to congressional investigators that it pulled down 201 accounts linked to Russian entities that purchased ads on Facebook. Some of the Facebook ads linked to Russia entities focused on racial issues.

Twitter has online rules against tweeting hate speech, but the lawmakers said they are concerned that “insufficient government oversight” over the social media industry is threatening democracy and deepening racial tensions.

SiliconBeat reached out to Twitter, but a spokesperson did not immediately respond.

Lawmakers asked the company to outline its efforts to detect and eliminate “racially divisive communities,” what security features it has in place to prevent foreign entities from meddling in the election and its reporting process to the government and public about these accounts.

If Twitter is “unable or hesitant to grasp the seriousness of this threat and combat the radicalized climate” on its platform, the lawmakers noted that increased government oversight and regulation could be coming.

Photo: The Twitter building is photographed Dec. 14, 2015, in San Francisco. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

 

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