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Twitter suspends several alt-right accounts

Published 17/11/2016

Twitter noted that its policies forbid violent threats, hate speech or harassment and promised to take action against violators
Twitter noted that its policies forbid violent threats, hate speech or harassment and promised to take action against violators

Twitter has suspended the accounts of several prominent members of the so-called "alt-right" in an apparent crackdown on accounts tied to hate speech or threats of violence.

Twitter declined to comment, but noted that its policies forbid violent threats, hate speech or harassment and promised to take action against violators.

The company also announced that it is expanding ways for users to report harassment and curb the amount of abuse they see - a reaction to a growing problem of abuse, bullying and harassment on the internet.

The alt-right, short for "alternative right," is a loose group espousing a provocative and reactionary strain of conservatism. It is often associated with far right efforts to preserve "white identity," oppose multiculturalism and defend "Western values".

The movement drew national attention during the presidential campaign, especially after Stephen Bannon of the Breitbart website, considered by many to be the alt-right's platform, joined Donald Trump's campaign.

Mr Trump recently named Mr Bannon as the White House chief strategist.

Richard Spencer, head of the National Policy Institute, a white nationalist think-tank, said in an interview that his personal Twitter account and accounts for the institute and his magazine were all suspended this week without notification.

Mr Spencer, who is credited with popularising the term "alt-right," said he has never called for violence and has not tweeted anything recently which might provoke a suspension. He called the suspensions a coordinated attack against users with certain viewpoints.

While he acknowledged that Twitter is a company and has a right to do as it pleases, he said it also needs to accept that it has evolved into something bigger and needs to act accordingly.

"This is 2016 and we live in a digital world," he said.

"Twitter is how the president releases press releases and it's also how teenage girls talk about Justin Bieber.

"Twitter is not just some website. It's a public space and we have to treat it that way."

Pax Dickinson, who was ousted as chief technology officer of the website Business Insider in 2013 for sending offensive tweets, said he also was not given a reason for his Twitter suspension. But he said it likely stemmed from a tweet he sent director Joss Whedon that included an anti-gay slur.

Mr Dickinson said he had appealed the suspension, but has yet to hear back from Twitter. Mr Spencer said he does not plan on coming back to Twitter unless he gets an apology.

The Twitter accounts of alt-right personalities Ricky Vaughn and John Rivers were also suspended as of Wednesday. Paul Town was also banned, although he said that his Twitter feed is a "combination of satire and performance art" that has been misconstrued as alt-right.

Actress Leslie Jones briefly quit Twitter in July after dealing with racial slurs, obscene photos and comments about her appearance. She called on the social networking service to do more to curb harassment on the platform.

Twitter ultimately banned several users, including conservative provocateur and Breitbart technology editor Milo Yiannopoulos.

AP

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