Twitter Totters Between Free Speech and Hate Speech

Is Twitter doing enough to prevent harassment and bullying? There’s a fine line between free speech and hate speech, and in recent months, Twitter has doubled down on policing hate speech on its platform. On Monday morning, Twitter briefly suspended David Duke’s account. Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan leader, is known to tweet anti-Semitic and racist comments on the platform. Twitter has stated that hateful and abusive conduct is not allowed on its platform. So why, after only a brief suspension, did the company reinstate Duke’s account? Twitter previously banned white nationalist Richard Spenser, although his account was eventually reinstated as well. Twitter is sending mixed messages about reigning in hate speech.

 

David Duke later tweeted that he didn’t know why his account had been suspended. Twitter later admitted that the suspension was a mistake. In fact, Twitter not only restored David Duke’s account, but it also reinstated the ex-KKK grand wizard’s tweets about shutting down synagogues.

 

Twitter’s actions regarding David Duke’s account contradict CEO Jack Dorsey’s proclamations that the company planned to take a completely new approach to abuse. How does Twitter decide who gets banned and who doesn’t? Last year, the company permanently banned former Breitbart tech editor and far-right agitator Milo Yiannopoulos for abusive attacks against Leslie Jones.

 

Twitter’s campaign to prevent harassment, bullying and abuse is more about generating positive news headlines than anything else. It’s safe to say the company wants to have its cake and eat it too.

 

 

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