Monday was day one of what the alt-right is calling the “Twitter purge.” If you don’t peddle in bigotry, however, you may see it as the start of the company taking the safety of its community seriously by extracting those who utilize the platform to promote hate speech and post abusive content.
Twitter verified white nationalists and anti-Muslim bigots for years, as if they were just like other prominent people. Most recently, in November, the company decided to bestow verified status on that Jason Kessler, who organized the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. A week later, after a flurry of bad press surrounding that decision, Twitter revoked Kessler’s verification, as well as that of others engaged in racism and anti-Muslim bigotry, including the infamous white nationalist Richard Spencer.
Though Twitter said that verification (and the accompanying blue checkmark) isn’t an endorsement, it does come with special privileges. Tweets from verified accounts are promoted in the “top tweets” search results. They also appear more likely to show up in Google search’s Twitter bar, which populates at the top of search results for important news events.
“In our efforts to be more aggressive here, we may make some mistakes and are working on a robust appeals process,” the company acknowledged in a blog post Monday announcing the start of its enforcement of stricter hate speech policies. Specifically, Twitter now bars users who take to the platform to “promote violence against civilians to further their causes,” as well as those who glorify such violence. The rules also bar attacking people “on the basis of their group characteristics” and using Twitter to harass people into silence.
Twitter wasn’t joking. By the end of the day Monday, the removal of accounts belonging to white nationalist and far-right extremists started to rack up. While Twitter isn’t keeping a public list of its expulsion efforts, here’s a (non-comprehensive, as the account removals are ongoing) list of newly suspended accounts as a result of Twitter’s recent clean-up efforts:
- Jayda Fransen and Paul Golding, the leaders of Britain First, a far-right anti-Muslim group in the U.K. that gained notoriety stateside in November after President Trump retweeted its videos. The group’s main account was also suspended
- Vanguard America, the white nationalist group that the man who plowed his van into protesters in Charlottesville during the Unite the Right rally considered himself a member of
- Generation Identity, a European white supremacist and anti-immigration group
- The Traditionalist Worker Party, a white nationalist group that Tony Hovater, who was the subject of a controversial profile in the New York Times, co-founded
- Jeff Schoep, the leader of the neo-Nazi group, the Nationalist Socialist Movement
- The American Nazi Party
- Proud Boy magazine, an account affiliated with the Proud Boys, a far-right men’s group created by Vice Media co-founder Gavin McInnes
- The English Defense League, a far-right anti-Muslim protest movement
- The Canadian chapter of the Jewish Defense League, a violent pro-Israel far-right group
- Jared Taylor, editor of the virulently racist and white nationalist magazine American Resistance, which also had its account shuttered
- Bradley Dean Griffin, known on Twitter as Hunter Wallace, who is affiliated with the neo-Confederate group the League of the South and who organized a recent “White Lives Matter” rally in Tennessee
- Michael Hill, also affiliated with the League of the South
- Nordic Frontier, an anti-Semitic group across Norway, Sweden, and Finland
- The New Black Panther Party and affiliated accounts. The group has been rejected by members of the original Black Panther Party and is known for promoting violence against white people and Jews
When an account is deleted, some on the alt-right are marking its removal with the letter “F” on Twitter. As Will Sommer—who writes the Right Richter newsletter tracking the rise of the alt-right and is an editor at The Hill—says, this is a reference to a scene from the 2014 video game Call of Duty, in which the player is asked to press the F button “to pay respects” at a military funeral.
Some white nationalist users, like Richard Spencer, still have active accounts. But more suspensions may follow in the coming days.