EDITORIAL: Twitter must cut down homegrown hatred

By Editorial Board

Twitter has been successful in eliminating accounts affiliated with the terrorist group ISIS, using an algorithm to delete and ban at least 360,000 accounts, according to an Aug. 18, 2016, post to the platform’s public blog. Despite the success of silencing ISIS’s presence, Twitter is unlikely to take similar steps to ban white nationalism, according to an April 25 article by Motherboard, the tech-focused branch of Vice. The article was based on a Twitter all-hands meeting held in March in which employees were able to ask questions of executives.

When a site uses an algorithm to flag hateful content, there is always a possibility that accounts that are not explicitly malicious will be taken down. In the case of banning ISIS, some of the algorithm’s casualties were reporters and hacking activist group Anonymous, who opposed ISIS but may have used some of the same keywords targeted by the algorithm. If Twitter took a similar approach with white nationalism, some of the unintentionally affected accounts would belong to Republican politicians, according to  the Motherboard article.

Shane Tolentino

This is not a good argument against banning white nationalism. In fact, it is all the more reason to implement aggressive action; when those in power have taken up dangerous ideologies, we must take a stand. White supremacy and nationalism have taken such a strong hold in mainstream politics, and that must not be allowed to continue. Private organizations like Twitter should not profit off of hateful, violent mindsets.

It may not be the best business decision to tell thousands of users their accounts will be suspended or banned if they post or retweet racist content, but ultimately this is not a matter of creating new policies. It is a matter of equally enforcing the policies in place. Hate speech, targeted harassment and threats already violate Twitter’s terms of use, but poor enforcement has led to these problems flourishing on the platform. All hate groups must be equally condemned; it should not depend on the skin color of the perpetrators.

Hate and violence by white people here at home should be taken just as seriously as hate and violence by groups abroad.

White nationalism—and more broadly white supremacy—is a home-grown and pervasive kind of terrorism. It thrives on fear mongering, oppressive rhetoric and ideas aimed at division. The concept of white supremacy sits at the root of many American political stances, from border walls to police authority. The U.S. is built on slavery and class struggles which have generationally benefited white people. Some of those who have succeeded under this system of oppression and racism want to perpetuate it.

Twitter’s lack of action against white nationalists condones their views, statements and actions. If a political leader tweets something which sparks harassment or violence, they deserve to have their account suspended or deleted. In a democracy, elected leaders are not exempt from justice. If anybody is treated as if they are above the law, the law means nothing.