Twitter suspended high-profile accounts associated with the alt-right movement, the same day the social media service said it would crack down on hate speech.
Among those suspended was Richard Spencer, who runs an alt-right think tank and had a verified account on Twitter.
I’m torn on this one.
On the one hand, Twitter certainly seems to target voices from the right. I’m no fan of provocateur Milo Yiannawhatever, but his account seemed to be suspended, not for what he did, but for ugly stuff his fans did. Glenn Reynolds was temporarily suspended after he made a comment that — while he apologized for it, and it probably could have been phrased better — seemed, when read charitably and in full context, to advocate a sensible policy of self-protection.
Twitter also seems to take its cue from leftists with agendas. Anita Sarkeesian, a militant feminist, was made part of Twitter’s “Trust and Safety council.” Next thing you know, Robert Stacy McCain was suspended, after having done . . . I don’t know what he supposedly did, but I do know he had criticized Sarkeesian.
Also, Twitter and other companies may be taking their cue for the dishonest, nutty, and untrustworthy Southern Poverty Law Center. The USA Today piece says:
Heidi Beirich, spokeswoman for the Southern Poverty Law Center, told USA TODAY that the center had asked Twitter to remove more than 100 accounts of white supremacists who violated Twitter’s terms of service. She also pointed to two alt-right accounts that had been verified by Twitter, Spencer’s and Heimblach’s.
Ugh. Keep them out of anything having to do with . . . anything.
On the other hand, Twitter has every right to ban who they want. It’s a private company. They’re subject to criticism for it, but they have the right. And I certainly want to control who posts here. Generally, that would include racists — a description that seems to fit Richard Spencer, who wants to ship minorities out of the country:
“I don’t think people have fully recognized the degree to which he’s [Trump] transformed the party,” said Richard Spencer, a clean-cut 38-year-old from Arlington, Virginia, who sipped Manhattans as he matter-of-factly called for removing African-Americans, Hispanics and Jews from the United States.
I would not be thrilled with having such people post here, although I might hear them out, at first. Mostly to make fun of them.
And I recognize a couple of the other names on the list of the banned: “Paul Town, Pax Dickinson, Ricky Vaughn and John Rivers.” Pax Dickinson and John Rivers are jackasses. I ban them on Twitter.
But, you see, I choose to do that.
So it’s not as easy an issue, in my view, as many on both sides make it out to be.
In general, though (and I say this as no fan of the alt-right): I think this is a bad move for Twitter — and one of many.