Twitter shouldn’t be a platform for propagating hate

Twitter's CEO is punishing a comedian more sternly than he punishes neo-Nazis

Twitter needs to take immediate action to address white supremacy on the platform.

Two weeks ago, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the US, comedian and The Daily Show correspondent Jaboukie Young-White changed his Twitter name and picture to resemble the FBI’s official profile, and tweeted, “Just because we killed MLK doesn’t mean we can’t miss him.”

Not long after he published this tweet, Jaboukie was suspended from the platform for the second time in less than 48 hours. The first time was for a tweet he published only one day before, in which he impersonated “Kent State Gun Girl,” Kaitlin Bennett, and joked that she had a “poo accident,” which she’s reportedly done.

Yes, these tweets are funny. And, yes, they do violate Twitter’s Terms of Service, which include the statement: “We reserve the right to remove content that violates the User Agreement, including […] impersonation.” Because of this, no matter how funny or how grounded in the truth Jaboukie’s tweets may be, the comedian was banned for violating the rules each user agrees to when they sign up for an account.

Sometimes, though, these rules only seem to apply to certain people. Shockingly, these rules don’t apply to white supremacists. Even casual Twitter users are aware of the jokes made at Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s expense about his reluctance to ban the white supremacists running rampant on his website.

Like most social media sites, Twitter uses an algorithm to broadly target hateful content. Using this algorithm, Twitter has entirely eradicated ISIS content, limiting its ability to spread. In targeting legitimate ISIS propaganda, many innocent Twitter accounts, such as Islamic news outlets, have also been banned as a result, since the algorithm can’t detect the contextual differences of the content it’s suppressing. This is a cost some, especially white people in the West, have had no problems with.

According to a VICE article, Twitter hasn’t used a similar algorithm to eliminate white nationalism because if the platform banned known white nationalists, the other Twitter accounts also banned in the fallout would be those of Republican politicians. Aside from potential lawsuits and partisan outrage caused by banning Republicans, one major difficulty about using the algorithm to remove white supremacists from Twitter is the sheer number of them that already exist on the platform.

J.M. Berger, author of the book Extremism, told Cox and Koebler that “[…] There are more white nationalists than there are ISIS supporters, and white nationalists are closer to the levers of political power in the US and Europe than ISIS ever was.”

At the lower levels of the political power Berger mentions, we can see Republican congressman Steve King, who’s both verified on Twitter and, according to The Washington Post, the “Congressman most openly affiliated with white nationalism.” There are also individuals like Marine Le Pen, French one-time presidential candidate and current leader of the National Front party, who, in an interview, have characterized illegal immigrants as thieves and rapists, echoing damaging rhetoric we’ve heard before.

The highest office in the US and one of the most influential political positions in the world is held by a white supremacist. The ridiculous nature of US President Donald Trump’s ability to continue using Twitter is clear—threatening acts of war are obvious violations of Twitter’s User Agreement.

After repeatedly coming under fire for allowing Trump to jeopardize American national security with his tweets, Twitter released a statement. Although they did say “that the accounts of world leaders are not above our policies entirely,” it was quite clear that not much would be done.

Donald Trump rampaging on Twitter is an extreme case of what happens when openly racist individuals are allowed to tweet without any repercussions. However, there are so many white supremacists on Twitter that removing them should be a priority, just as removing ISIS propaganda was only a few years prior.

To put things into perspective, the Ku Klux Klan (KKK)’s leader, Grand Wizard, has an active Twitter account that hasn’t been shut down, though Jaboukie’s was removed and took five days to be reinstated.

As a result, we need to consider just what it’ll take for Jack Dorsey to listen to all of the normal Twitter users who want a hate-free platform.

Solutions to challenges like these need to force corporations to adapt their practices and adhere to regulations imposed upon them. It would take significant cooperation between the corporations themselves and their regulatory bodies to achieve this. However, at the moment, it seems that cooperation just isn’t something tech giants are focused on.

I don’t think we should have to beg corporations to ban Nazis from their platforms, but that might just be me.

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