Is There a Political Reason Twitter Won’t Do More to Combat White Supremacy?

REX/Shutterstock; Evan Vucci/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Since President Trump took office, Republicans have accused social media platforms of bias against conservative users. But according to a new report from Motherboard, Twitter has avoided censoring white supremacists out of fear that it could impact the accounts of Republican politicians.

The report cites a March 22nd meeting at Twitter during which it was explained to attendees that accounts like those of Arabic language broadcasters may inadvertently be flagged in the course of the platform ridding itself of ISIS propaganda. Twitter hasn’t made the same commitment to rid itself of white supremacist content, the speaker later said in another conversation confirmed by Motherboard, because it could have a similar effect on the accounts of Republican politicians.

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Twitter responded by noting to Motherboard that the report “is not [an] accurate characterization of our policies or enforcement — on any level.” The company later disputed the report in a statement. “The information cited from the ‘sources’ in this story has absolutely no basis in fact,” it read. “The characterization of the exchange at the meeting of March 22nd is also completely factually inaccurate. There are no simple algorithms that find all abusive content on the Internet and we certainly wouldn’t avoid turning them on for political reasons.”

As the report explains, Twitter took a broad, mostly algorithmic approach to eradicating ISIS-related content. To do so for white supremacist content would inevitably impact Republican accounts because of the extent to which white supremacist and white nationalist rhetoric has bled into American political discourse. “Cracking down on white nationalists will therefore involve removing a lot of people who identify to a greater or lesser extent as Trump supporters, and some people in Trump circles and pro-Trump media will certainly seize on this to complain they are being persecuted,” extremism expert and author JM Berger told Motherboard. “There’s going to be controversy here that we didn’t see with ISIS, because there are more white nationalists than there are ISIS supporters, and white nationalists are closer to the levers of political power in the U.S. and…

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