On Wednesday, Twitter went on an alt-right purge, targeting white supremacists and alt-right and “alt-lite” figures with de-verifications and at least one suspension.
The social media giant changed their verification (signaled via a blue checkmark) standard for online accounts after receiving backlash for verifying Jason Kessler, who organized the white nationalist protest-turned-fatal riot in Charlottesville, Virginia, this summer.
“We are conducting an initial review of verified accounts and will remove verification from accounts whose behavior does not fall within these new guidelines,” announced Twitter. “Promoting hate and/or violence” and “inciting or engaging in harassment of others” were included as such behaviors, as noted by The Guardian.
In light of the new subjective verification standard, Twitter sought out far-right personalities, commentators, and journalists to strip of their checkmarks.
Kessler and white supremacist Richard Spencer were among those deverified.
Alt-right personality and podcast host James Allsup, who has since changed his Twitter name to “PUNISHED ALLSUP,” was also stripped of his verification.
The Rebel TV’s Tommy Robinson posted an ominous “& so it begins” after he was informed by Twitter of his de-verification.
Alt-right personality @wifewithapurpose and self-described “alt-lite” journalist Laura Loomer have, too, been de-verified.
Though it is unclear if the events are connected, alt-right figure Baked Alaska had his account suspended on Wednesday as well. According to Mashable, the outlet was informed by a Twitter spokesperson that “the company does not comment on individual comments (as is known) but pointed to Twitter’s Hateful Conduct Policy, specifically ‘repeated and/or or non-consensual slurs, epithets, racist and sexist tropes, or other content that degrades someone.'”
There have been no reports of far-left figures being censored or stripped of their verification thus far.
The left-leaning Anti-Defamation League (ADL) applauded the Twitter crackdown on the Right as a win “against hate.”
But will this action undermine or empower those voices who have been de-verified or suspended? You can rightly despise the alt-right and others who espouse hateful ideologies, but stripping them of their verifications and suspending them from the platform, which will largely be perceived as a form of censorship, may end up feeding the beast.
A recent example of the ban-the-bigot mentality resulting in growth of an ideological movement comes to us at the hands of crowdfunding site Patron, as highlighted by journalist Yair Rosenberg. In an attempt to stamp out “hate” via censorship, a response site, fittingly and mockingly called Hatreon was developed to serve those removed from Patreon.
The move backfired on Patreon:
In August, when Hatreon first went live but before it fully launched, alt-right luminary Richard Spencer began pulling in a modest $85 per month. Today, just a few short months later, he clocks in at $918 per month and counting. Back in August, Andrew Anglin, proprietor of the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer, was taking in $700 a month from fans. Today, he is raking in $7,739 a month, or a whopping $92,868 a year. In other words, despite the feel-good foisting of Anglin and company from mainstream internet crowdfunding platforms and online hosting services, he is still approaching a six-figure retainer for racism.
Rumors are already circulating that Twitter will complete its purge of the alt-right by the end of the month by suspending or banning the accounts they have already de-verified. “Bigots cannot truly be booted off the web, and can easily create their own alternative platforms when required. Bump them off one web host, and they will find another in a place like Hong Kong, as the Daily Stormer did,” writes Rosenberg. “Knock them off Patreon, you get Hatreon.”