Starting today, Twitter will be implementing two new policies designed to combat "hate groups" who traffic in "fake news," and engage in abusive behavior. The platform will also examine "off site" postings to determine who should be penalized.
Initially announced in November, Twitter will also start penalizing accounts that include “hateful imagery and display names,” presumably including Nazi insignia, or those who “use [a] username, display name, or profile bio to engage in abusive behavior.”For Twitter, the two new restrictions are attempts to combat rampant harassment and abuse on the site. Users affiliated with the alt-right or neo-Nazi movements in particular have seized on the company’s notoriously lax oversight to stoke racial tensions, peddle false news reports and attack their critics, including Democrats. Earlier this year, they organized a neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia with the aid of the platform.To that end, the looming, December 18 enforcement deadline left some of Twitter’s right-leaning users this weekend fearing a full, messy “purge.” Some said they’d be shifting to Gab, an alt-right friendly social media site, and encouraged their supporters to do the same.Twitter did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment on Sunday.To be sure, Twitter does not explicitly mention the alt-right or neo-Nazi groups in the rules it first previewed in November. Rather, its new policy more broadly seeks to outlaw “specific threats of violence or wish for the serious physical harm, death, or disease of an individual or group of people.”Notably, though, Twitter has said it would be monitoring groups’ behavior outside of the website, as it makes its decision as to which users have run afoul of its new guidelines.
As a private company, Twitter is well within its rights to determine who can use their service. But the problem with these new policies is obvious; what is their definition of "hate"? And will they apply the same standard to left wing radical groups like Antifa and Black Lives Matter?
“You also may not affiliate with 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,” the policy says.For months, Twitter has felt pressure — from users in the U.S. and regulators around the world, particularly in Europe — to crack down on hate speech. Recently, the company has started stripping verification status — the infamous blue checkmarks — from users who violate its policies.
I am not confident that Twitter managers are capable of distinguishing between speech they disagree with and genuine hate speech - not when the far left has shown its own predeliction to misname conservative political speech as hate speech. Even if it isn't a deliberate campaign to silence the right, the result will be the same; a chilling effect on political speech that the left considers objectionable.
Twitter has actually done a pretty good job of shutting down Islamic jihad accounts in recent years, the result of constant urging by the government. And blatant neo-Nazi, Klu Klux Klan, and anti-Semitic individuals should not be allowed to spew their rancid ideologies on any social platform.
But when mainstream conservatives like Bridget Johnson of PJ Media have their accounts suspended for no good reason, alarm bells should be going off. Twitter has an abysmal track record in shutting down violent, hate filled leftist groups like Antifa and Black Lives Matter while silencing conservatives for the most ridiculous reasons. If they want to drive conservatives off Twitter, adding to the red ink already bleeding from their bottom line, they've made a damn fine start of it.