Image by Kacper Pempel/Reuters

Twitter suspends prominent alt-right accounts

On the same day that Twitter announced a crackdown on harassment by its users, the social media platform suspended some accounts associated with the alt-right movement on Tuesday, reported USA Today.

One of the targets was Richard Spencer, a man known for his calls for Jews, Asians, Hispanics and African-Americans to be removed from the United States. Spencer had his personal account suspended (@RichardBSpencer), along with the account for his think tank, the National Policy Institute (@npiamerica), and his online magazine (@radixjournal).

Spencer called the policy “corporate Stalinism” in an interview with The Daily Caller, a politically conservative news and opinion site.

In an opinion piece for the Atlantic, conservative commentator David Frum argued that Twitter’s censorship of these accounts is not the way to deal with people who hold and voice these ideologies. He said he thought that the censorship of Spencer’s account, in particular, was unwarranted.

“In the case of Richard Spencer, however, there is no evidence of harassment or incitement to harass. The same can be said of most (although not all) of the other accounts suspended on November 15. These suspensions seem motivated entirely by viewpoint, not by behavior,” he wrote.

Frum suggested instead that open dialogue would drain away the audience: “It’s precisely the perception of arbitrary and one-sided speech policing that drives so many young men toward radical, illiberal politics.”

Paul Town, who calls himself “the leading thoughtleader of alt-right” on his website, was another one suspended. But following his suspension, Town created another Twitter account under the name Saul Townstein.

The Southern Poverty Law Center had asked Twitter to suspend more than 100 accounts of white supremacists who they said violated the company’s terms of service, according to USA Today.

Following news of the suspensions, the organization tweeted:

The company also expanded its “mute” feature, allowing users to mute keywords, phrases and conversations on the platform. Muting can now also be enabled for notifications, so that users will not be able to see the language pop up on their phones or computers, for example.

It is unclear if the suspensions were connected to the release of the new features.

Suspension for violators of Twitter’s hateful conduct policy is not new. “The consequences for violating our rules vary depending on the severity of the violation and the person’s previous record of violations,” the policy states, and gives examples including suspending accounts.

Twitter did not respond to any questions but provided the PBS NewsHour with a statement on the recent suspensions: “The Twitter Rules prohibit violent threats, harassment, hateful conduct, and multiple account abuse, and we will take action on accounts violating those policies.”