The big tech companies have been under worldwide pressure to restrict prominent white nationalists and their rhetoric after the New Zealand mosque shootings were livestreamed on Facebook.
But Twitter’s ban of Canadian Nationalist Front, which The Globe and Mail reported on Tuesday, is peculiar because of a swath of extremists and white nationalist groups that remain on the platform.
Whereas Facebook banned groups ― including the Canadian Nationalist Front and prominent white nationalists like Faith Goldy ― following a HuffPost story about Goldy and other extremists on the platform, Twitter banned only one. The company confirmed with The Globe and Mail that it banned the group and affiliated accounts for violating its rules barring violent extremist groups, but declined to go into detail.
Meanwhile, a very basic search on Twitter reveals that a slew of other white nationalist groups remain, some of which appear to blatantly violate its strict terms of service.
Red Ice, for example, is a white nationalist propaganda outlet as described by the Southern Poverty Law Center. It’s a designated hate group that peddles exclusively in white nationalist and extremist content, though according to Twitter’s rules, that alone won’t necessarily get a group banned. It also takes aligning with a violent extremist faction, which Red Ice appears to have done: white nationalist Lana Lokteff previously used the group’s Twitter account and other social media to promote an Adolf Hitler film that makes light of the Nazi movement.
Plus, profiles like the Canadian Nationalist Front are still around. Merely typing “Canadian Nationalist” in Twitter’s search bar reveals the “Canadian Nationalist Party” ― which has a few hundred followers and declares “It’s ok to be white” ― and multiple accounts bearing logos like the Nazi SS symbol.
For the big social platforms, banning often violent white nationalists is a veritable game of Whack-a-Mole. But each platform is secretive in its own way about how it chooses people and groups to ban and why. It’s unclear why Twitter, for example, banned Canadian Nationalist Front and not Red Ice or prominent white nationalist leaders like Richard Spencer, Faith Goldy, Stefan Molyneux, Laura Southern and others.
Facebook, meanwhile, released a more sweeping measure banning white nationalist content and the extremist actors who share it, but immediately failed to enforce its rules, declaring that Goldy’s racist content wasn’t white nationalist (eventually the platform banned Goldy and others after a HuffPost published a story).
The platforms could be scrambling to meet new demands by a number of international governments that they deal with extremist and terroristic content immediately, or face strict penalties.
Canada, the United Kingdom, the European Union and Australia each have either begun drafting or already passed various measures in the wake of the New Zealand shooting that penalize social media companies for allowing extremist content to remain on the platform. Australia’s law is the strictest and also the most vague ― tech companies that allow terrorist content to stay online for too long face fines of up to 10 percent of their annual profit, and up to three years’ imprisonment for their executives.
It’s unclear, however, what Twitter’s ultimate motivation for the ban was. The company didn’t respond to calls for comment from HuffPost.