Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

Twitter Suspends Accounts of Prominent White Supremacists

  • Richard Spencer, Pax Dickinson among those shut out of site
  • Social media company also added tools to curb harassment

Twitter Inc. suspended some accounts of prominent white supremacists as the social media company added tools to curb abuse and harassment.

Among those whose accounts were curbed, was Richard Spencer, Pax Dickinson, Ricky Vaughn and John Rivers. Spencer is often credited with spearheading the alternative-right movement, a loosely associated group of people who believe white identity is under attack by multiculturalism. The account shutdowns were earlier reported by USA Today.

Twitter rules prohibit violent threats, harassment, hateful conduct, and multiple account abuse, and we will take action on accounts violating those policies,” according to an e-mailed statement from a Twitter spokesperson.

The account of the National Policy Institute, of which Spencer is president, and Radix Journal, a magazine he runs, were also suspended.

Twitter, whose failure to curb harassment on the site has been a major complaint from users, rolled out an anti-harassment keyword filtering tool Tuesday that allows people to mute seeing certain words, such as racial slurs and foul language. People can also block whole conversations. There’s also a new option to report "hateful conduct" in addition to abuse and harassment.

Social media platforms came under increasing scrutiny during the presidential campaign. Following President-Elect Donald Trump’s victory, critics argued that Facebook Inc. allowed false news to run on the site and that its algorithm amplified the voices people wanted to hear. Abuse on Twitter, already a main complaint of users, intensified and became more public.

Trump has faced repeated criticism for attracting the support of racist and xenophobic groups. One of the first points of controversy came in February when Trump didn’t immediately reject support from David Duke, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, saying he didn’t “know anything about white supremacists.” Trump has since said that he disavowed Duke’s support.

It’s not the first time Twitter has actively taken measures to boot members who are part of the white extremist movement. In July, Twitter permanently banned Milo Yiannopoulos, known as @nero on the site, for leading harassment of Ghostbusters actress Leslie Jones.

Still, the problem is a hard one to solve. The company was criticized Wednesday for hosting a pro-white ad with Nazi undertones, which had slipped through its filtering system for self-serve advertising. It was removed shortly after some Twitter users complained.

Twitter said it could not comment on individual accounts, for privacy and security reasons.

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