In what has become a game of racist whack-a-mole, Twitter has barred the head of the neo-Confederate League of the South, Michael Hill. Hill quickly reupped on the platform with a new account.
The account hopping is the latest example of someone on the racist fringe getting barred by Twitter and starting a new account without any repercussions from the social media platform.
Twitter closed the @MickCollins1951 belonging to J. Michael Hill, who heads the racist group based in Killen, Alabama, over the weekend after he retweeted a video of himself and others burning an Israeli flag and saying: “We stand for the white race against all our enemies, particularly the Jews.”
The banning marked the second account of Hill’s to be suspended. His original account, @MichaelHill51, is also offline, but it is unclear for how long that one has been barred.
Hill, though, wasn’t deterred. He created a new account, @TheBigMick1951, and began tweeting on Sunday, saying: “Y’all help a Southern nationalist boy out!” By midday Monday, Hill had tweeted 94 times and had 295 followers on the new account.
The new account makes no secret of who is tweeting and Hill’s affiliation.
In the biography section of the page, Hill listed himself as a “Southern nationalist, Rhodesia, Dixie Mafia, Northern Ireland, and other White Man stuff …” It also features a banner photo of the League of the South marching with a Confederate flag.
He also retweeted the video that got his old account closed and later said, “Y'all make this video go viral!”
Changing accounts has become the norm for white supremacists and racists who are barred from Twitter. And the platform has been inconsistent about which racists, white supremacists and far-right figures it allows on the social media network.
People such as racist “alt-right” frontman Richard Spencer, former Ku Klux Klan leader and career racist David Duke, “Unite the Right” organizer Jason Kessler and male supremacist and conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich all maintain a presence on Twitter.
Twitter only recently bounced Alex Jones and Infowars, known for trolling the families of the school shooting victims in Newtown, Connecticut, from the platform after it concluded the accounts had violated its behavior policies.
Twitter has been a magnet for racists, antisemites, white supremacists and others, an open field where they could spread their message with little or no accountability. Before that, Twitter boss Jack Dorsey stepped in personally to stop Twitter staff members from banning Jones and Spencer from the platform.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Dorsey expressed frustration with other executives and staffers by jumping in at the last minute to make decisions on whether or not controversial figures should be suspended.
It took until November 2017 for Twitter to decertify Spencer, Kessler, English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson and others. Decertification means that the accounts would no longer have the iconic blue check marks next to the name.
During that sweep, Twitter suspended the account of @BakedAlaska, aka 29-year-old Tim Gionet, a white nationalist who had about 200,000 followers.
But Twitter has come under criticism for not doing enough to rid the platform of racists and others of that ilk.
Actor Seth Rogen tweeted in July that he’s exchanged messages with Dorsey about the problem: “I’ve been DMing with @jack about his bizarre need to verify white supremacists on his platform for the last 8 months or so, and after all the exchanges, I’ve reached a conclusion: the dude simply does not seem to give a fuck."
Writer and author David Simon, who created the show “The Wire,” also took on Dorsey after receiving a temporary ban earlier this year after a post in which he told Dorsey he should “die of boils.”
“I find it harder and harder to believe that Jack Dorsey or the others engaged in regulating speech on his horror-show of a platform are unaware that their detached and dystopic vision of what is responsible speech and what is in fact crippling to our republic is not a solution,” wrote Simon, a prolific tweeter whose account has been restored. “Having given us Twitter, they are in this moment, ruinous to its best purposes.”
When Twitter ran an ad from the white supremacist group New Order in 2016, Dorsey apologized, but not before a tweet pointing out the ad went viral.
“We made a mistake here and we apologize,” Dorsey said. “Our automated system allowed an ad promoting hate. Against our policy. We did a retro and fixed!”
For League of the South, the video of the Israeli flag burning is the latest public sign that the group is moving further away from its roots in the neo-Confederate movement. Instead, the move seems designed to draw the attention and possible membership of a more active and potentially violent set of recruits to League of the South.
The League has shifted in recent years from “advocating for the survival, well-being, and independence of the southern people” in 2014 to brawling with antifa alongside white nationalists and neo-Nazi skinheads in 2017 and 2018.
The most visible example of that shift came at “Unite the Right” in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, which devolved into a series of fights and a riot. Three people — two Virginia State Troopers and 32-year-old Heather Heyer, who was there to protest against the racists — were killed.
The group once presented itself as the premier “Southern Nationalist” organization that stood for “the southern people,” which it defines as “white, Christians of Anglo-Celtic stock” who live in a geographic area variously described as “the states of the Old Confederacy,” “the Bible belt” and “white man’s land.”
But, earlier this year, the League began publishing a Russian language page as it has turned to flash demonstrations to get its message public. It also served as a cheap, attention-getting stunt with little or no known impact on getting the group members overseas.
How long Hill’s new account will last is unknown. But if the past is any guide, he won’t be off Twitter for long.