Twitter users responded with defiance, praise and bafflement as the embattled tech company enforced new rules on hate speech and abuse, permanently suspending a relatively small number of prominent accounts linked to white nationalists and neo-Nazis.
The rules that took effect Monday broaden the tech firm’s hateful conduct policy to permanently suspend any account that displays “violent threats, multiple slurs, epithets, racist or sexist tropes, incites fear or reduces someone to less than human.” The policy also targets groups or individuals that promote violence on and off the platform.
Thus far, suspended accounts include white nationalists like Jared Taylor and his publication American Renaissance, Britain First’s Paul Golding and Jayda Fransen, a European white supremacist group known as Generation Identity, the American Nazi Party and the New Black Panther Party.
Civil rights groups such as Muslim Advocates, which have been calling for stronger measures to combat hate speech, applauded the enforcement actions.
“As social media sites have become the central organizing hub for America’s hate groups, companies like Twitter and Facebook have a responsibility to ensure that their platforms are not used to sow violence and hate,” the group said in a statement.
Twitter, which has billed itself as a space for free expression but also touted its new, more stringent safety policies, was slammed by the banned accounts and their supporters.
American Renaissance, which was verified and had 32,800 followers when it was banned, filed an appeal to Twitter and was told by Twitter that it had been permanently banned because it violated “rules against being affiliated with a violent extremist group.”
“We consider violent extremist groups to be organizations that—whether by their own statements or activity both on and off the platform—use or promote violence against civilians to further their causes,” Twitter said to American Renaissance in a statement.
Nevertheless, prominent neo-Nazis like David Duke and Richard Spencer, along with white nationalist Jason Kessler—who called the activist who was killed in Charlottesville a “fat, disgusting communist”—all still have active accounts on Twitter.
Spencer tweeted on Tuesday that a “second round of purges” was beginning.
Twitter user JM Berger noted what he sees as a “bias toward offline organizations” in the Twitter purge and posted a collage showing a range of white supremacist or neo-Nazi accounts that had not been purged.
Gab, a social network that calls itself a champion of “free speech” and has 345,000 members, remains a space where white nationalists won't be banned.
"The inclusion of Britain First to our platform has helped tremendously, in addition to Twitter’s restrictions," Utsav Sanduja, Gab's chief operating officer, told Fox News.