Twitter Considers Banning All White Supremacists

May 30th, 2019 5:01 PM

Twitter has gathered a group of academics to help decide the fate of free speech on its platform. 

Twitter, the platform that bans people for tweeting “learn to code” at journalists, is considering cracking down on “white supremacists.” Vice’s Motherboard wrote that that Vijaya Gadde, Twitter's head of Trust and Safety, legal and public policy made multiple public comments on the issue. 

Gadde initially stated that Twitter believes "counter-speech and conversation are a force for good, and they can act as a basis for de-radicalization, and we've seen that happen on other platforms, anecdotally."

She has appeared with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey at his meeting with President Donald Trump and Dorsey’s grilling over tech censorship on the Joe Rogan Podcast.

Gadde expressed that her company is doing some soul searching over whether Twitter should be a radically free speech platform. "Is it the right approach to deplatform these individuals? Is the right approach to try and engage with these individuals? How should we be thinking about this? What actually works?"

She said that Twitter is working with a team of academics to confirm that the company benefits society from being a place of public dialogue, rather than a place of right wing “radicalization.” 

"We're working with them specifically on white nationalism and white supremacy and radicalization online and understanding the drivers of those things.” She adds the question in mind is “what role can a platform like Twitter play in either making that worse or making that better?"

Vice’s reporting claims that Jillian York, the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s director for international freedom of expression, is optimistic that this will be a nuanced investigation. "I'm glad to hear that they're doing their due diligence and consulting experts on this complex matter," she stated via online chat. 

"Powerful (extremist or otherwise) actors will always find another way to get their word out, and we know from experience that speech restrictions (including of extremist content) all too often catch the wrong actors, who are often marginalized individuals or groups. And so I'm glad to see Twitter thinking creatively about this problem," she continued.

When Trump tweeted about the mass murders of white farmers in South Africa, he was slammed for spreading a “white supremacist talking point” by the ADL. Similarly, other news sources such as the Washington Post, NPR, and Business Insider referred to the talking point as associated with white supremacist conspiracy theories. 

According to Business Insider, Twitter itself has held back on using an algorithm to remove “white supremacist” rhetoric because it would fail to distinguish between violent extremists and Republicans in office. 

The Washington Post published a March 18 analysis headlined: “Trump’s top staffer doesn’t believe his boss is a white supremacist. Many Americans disagree.” Reporter Eugene Scott ended the piece by stating, “Trump is signaling a clear unwillingness to acknowledge and respond to the seriousness of this crisis, making him at least somewhat complicit in all the horrors that emanate from it.”