Twitter will begin enforcing new rules tomorrow that will suspend accounts affiliated with hate groups “on and off the platform” — a policy that could lead to a crack down on some alt-right users.
Initially announced in November, Twitter will also start penalizing accounts that include “hateful imagery and display names,” presumably including Nazi insignia, or those who “use [a] username, display name, or profile bio to engage in abusive behavior.”
For Twitter, the two new restrictions are attempts to combat rampant harassment and abuse on the site. Users affiliated with the alt-right or neo-Nazi movements in particular have seized on the company’s notoriously lax oversight to stoke racial tensions, peddle false news reports and attack their critics, including Democrats. Earlier this year, they organized a neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia with the aid of the platform.
To that end, the looming, December 18 enforcement deadline left some of Twitter’s right-leaning users this weekend fearing a full, messy “purge.” Some said they’d be shifting to Gab, an alt-right friendly social media site, and encouraged their supporters to do the same.
Twitter did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment on Sunday.
To be sure, Twitter does not explicitly mention the alt-right or neo-Nazi groups in the rules it first previewed in November. Rather, its new policy more broadly seeks to outlaw “specific threats of violence or wish for the serious physical harm, death, or disease of an individual or group of people.”
Notably, though, Twitter has said it would be monitoring groups’ behavior outside of the website, as it makes its decision as to which users have run afoul of its new guidelines.
“You also may not affiliate with organizations that — whether by their own statements or activity both on and off the platform — use or promote violence against civilians to further their causes,” the policy says.
For months, Twitter has felt pressure — from users in the U.S. and regulators around the world, particularly in Europe — to crack down on hate speech. Recently, the company has started stripping verification status — the infamous blue checkmarks — from users who violate its policies.
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