After years of continuous criticism for doing nothing about the rampant hate speech on their platform, Twitter finally took a step in the right direction.
Tuesday, Twitter removed the accounts of prominent ‘alt-right’ leader Richard Spencer, his think tank and online magazine, as well as other other ‘alt-right’ members like Paul Town, Pax Dickinson, Ricky Vaughn, and John Rivers.
In the past, Spencer has said he wants blacks, Asians, Hispanics and Jews removed from the U.S. He used to have a verified account on Twitter.
Spencer reacted to the suspension of his account in a video statement, calling it “corporate Stalinism.”
“I am alive physically but, digitally speaking, there has been execution squads across the alt right,” he said in the video titled “Knight of the Long Knives,” an apparent reference to the purge of Nazi leaders in 1934 to consolidate Hitler’s power.
Regarding Twitter, Spencer said, “there is a great purge going on, and they are purging people on the basis of their views.”
Before the election, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) released a report showing the unprecedented online harassment Jews - and especially Jewish journalists – are facing in the age of Twitter and Trump.
“The spike in hate we’ve seen online this election cycle is extremely troubling and unlike anything we have seen in modern politics, ADL CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, said in a press release. “A half century ago, the KKK burned crosses. Today, extremists are burning up Twitter.”
The report found, 2.6 million anti-Semitic tweets between August 2015 through July 2016. They more closely analyzed about 20,000 overtly anti-Semitic tweets targeting journalists. (Among those were Julia Ioffe and Ben Shapiro, who are featured in the Forward 50.)
Of those accounts attacking journalists, Twitter suspended only 21% during the last year.
Tuesday’s action by Twitter might be a hopeful sign.
The tech company declined to comment on the suspensions. “We don’t comment on individual accounts, for privacy and security reasons,” the company said in an emailed comment to USA Today.
Twitter has suspended a small number of alt-right accounts in the past but never so many prominent ones at once.
The same day, Twitter also introduced a new feature that allows users to mute certain words, usernames or hashtags in their notifications. By giving everyone this kind of control, Twitter hopes to create a less hateful environment for their users.
Lilly Maier is a news intern at the Forward. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @lillymmaier
Lilly Maier is a news intern at the Forward. She is a graduate journalism student at New York University, where she studies as a Fulbright scholar. She also holds a B.A. in Jewish history from the University of Munich.
Contact Lilly at email@example.com, read her portfolio, or follow her on Twitter.