It appears as if Twitter has blocked the accounts of some right-wing users, including those associated with white power groups. It is in response to user frustration over harassment and hate speech, but an article in Fortune.com questions whether this is the right move.
It points out that Twitter could be drawn into a risky debate over what constitutes acceptable speech. Apparently, users who have been banned include Richard Spencer who runs what’s called an alt-right organization called the National Policy Institute that advocates for racial separation, and Pax Dickinson, a Business Insider executive who was let go over racist comments.
It’s Twitter’s policy not to comment on actions taken on specific accounts, but just recently the company has taken a number of different steps to try to control harassment and bullying which includes an expansion of the mute feature. Twitter’s co-founder and part-time CEO, Jack Dorsey made it clear he intends to stamp out abuse on Twitter.
Twitter has already come under criticism for failing to take action to prevent hate speech on its platform except in specific cases such as an incident in July where black comedian and actor Leslie Jones was targeted by racists. After stating she was quitting the service due to harassment, Dorsey reached out to her and shortly afterward the account of the editor of right-wing Breitbart News, Milo Yiannopolous was permanently banned.
On the face of it, this might seem like good news, but the article highlights the fact that taking such action can have unexpected ramifications, as for example, Yiannopolous has seen his reputation increase for being a critic of the mainstream. Since being banned he has been able to argue that Twitter targeted him for telling the truth. Spencer is taking the same view and is claiming that people are being purged due to their opinions.
Historically, Twitter has always stood for freedom of speech and over the years has gone to great lengths to protect its user’s right to say pretty much anything they wish. But now Twitter has to take a different approach to its commitment to unrestricted free speech. Now it needs to determine which voices are permissible and which are not. Some blatantly racist remarks may seem an obvious choice for removal, but the article makes the point that just where do you draw the line between banning a political group that advocates racism compared to the kind of remarks made by Donald Trump during his presidential campaign.