Social media giant Twitter has begun implementing a new policy which many have criticized as unfairly targeting highly conservative accounts. Twitter, in response, has stated that their new policy is an attempt to combat “hate speech” on the platform. Richard Spencer, one of the accounts that has been removed, stated, “I am alive physically but digitally speaking there has been execution squads across the alt right. There is a great purge going on and they are purging people based on their views.”
The “alt right” Spencer speaks of is a loosely formed group of people that support the ideals of white nationalism. Spencer, a self-proclaimed member of the alt-right, has stated that he wants African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and Jews exiled from the United States.
Twitter responded to the backlash by saying, “The Twitter Rules prohibit targeted abuse and harassment, and we will suspend accounts that violate this policy.” Twitter did not, however, release a statement specifically relating to any of the myriad accounts that were suspended, which includes the accounts of Paul Town, Pax Dickinson, Ricky Vaughn and John Rivers.
Self-proclaimed white nationalist Matt Heimblach stated in an interview that he believes that the Twitter crackdown on alt-right users is a suppression of free speech. “There is a lot of concern over them trying to stop us, whether it’s the establishment or whether it’s these multinational corporations like Twitter or Google, but I really think it’s too little too late. This political revolution that we are seeing has already begun.”
Many critics of Heimblach and Spencer, however, point out that Twitter, as a private company and not a government entity, reserves the right to remove users from its site for any reason whatsoever.
Twitter has long struggled to deal with harassment and abuse on its platform, typically siding with freedom of speech. The site banned conservative instigator and troll Chuck Johnson in 2015 for a threat on activist DeRay McKesson’s life and Breitbart writer Milo Yiannopoulos in 2016 for repeated targeting of Saturday Night Live cast member Leslie Jones.
Many alt-right Twitter members are known for posting anti-Semitic memes and cartoons and sending them to journalists and other public figures, especially women and people of color. References to the Holocaust ovens are also frequent.