Twitter begins long-awaited crackdown on hate groups and extremist rhetoric

Twitter began implementing new rules on Monday to suspend users affiliated with hate groups, as well as users who engage in abuse, hateful conduct, or promote violence and physical harm against people “on the basis of their group characteristics.”

In other words, Twitter started making small steps toward addressing what became a pronounced problem in the lead up to the 2016 election — that the radical right was using the platform to propagate extremist rhetoric, spread anti-Semitic and other racist memes, and attack opponents of white nationalism with raw fury.

“Today, we are starting to enforce these policies across Twitter,” the company wrote in a blog post. “We’re making these changes to create a safer environment for everyone.”

The guidelines, initially announced in November, allow the company to prohibit posts that detail “specific threats of violence or wishing for serious physical harm, death, or disease to an individual or group of people,” as well as accounts that use or promote violence against civilians to further their causes,” the company said in a blog post.

The new rules come after Twitter refused to meet critics’ demands that the platform to do more to combat harassment and abuse from trolls and racists. During that time, the racist “alt-right” — a collection of far-right ideologies, groups and individuals who believe multicultural forces are using “political correctness’ to undermine white people — rushed to the platform, taking advantage of Twitter’s uneven and confusing moderation of extremist content.

Twitter advertised the new rules as simply a clarification of rules already in effect, but by early Monday afternoon some prominent racists had seen their access to the platform suspended.

The white nationalist American Renaissance and its founder Jared Taylor were suspended, as was Michael Hill, head of the neo-Confederate League of the South, Matthew Heimbach’s Traditionalist Workers Party and Occidental Dissent, a white nationalist website published by Brad Griffin.

On their own websites, and on Gab, a social media platform catering to alt-right personalities and interests, many reacted with panic and propaganda.

Throughout Monday, Griffin, who writes under the pseudonym “Hunter Wallace,” maintained a live thread of the suspensions on his website in a post titled “Twitter Apocalypse.” His takeaway? “It shows that Jewish conspiracies are REAL,” he wrote.

Griffin added: “I’ve always believed in the balkanization of social media. As someone who expects the country itself to polarize and break apart, I have always assumed social media would be an early victim. Free speech is incapable of coexisting with Jewish power, SJWs [social justice warriors] and political correctness.”

While it remains to be seen how far Twitter will go in enforcing its new rules, many alt-right accounts remained active by early afternoon, including those belonging to the anti-immigrant VDARE, white nationalist attorney Kyle Bristow, former Klansman David Duke and Mike “Enoch” Peinovich, the founder of The Right Stuff (TRS) and a co-host of the Daily Shoah, a seminal podcast of the alt-right.

Even Richard Spencer, founder of the National Policy Institute and one of the country’s most prominent white nationalist leaders, remained verified on Twitter.

“As of now, I don’t see any systematic method to the #TwitterPurge,” Spencer tweeted. “I’ve lost more than a hundred followers in 24 hrs, but lots of pro-White accounts, even shit-lordy ones, remain.”

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