We Now Know Why Twitter Won't Ban White Supremacists From Its Platform, and It's Disturbingly Understandable

Burhaan Kinu/Hindustan Times via Getty Images, NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

Twitter's use of algorithms to detect harmful speech has been successful in stifling ISIS propaganda on the site, but white supremacist content still runs rampant.

During a March meeting, a Twitter employee asked an executive a simple question: if Twitter could apply algorithms that successfully ban ISIS, why can't it do the same for white supremacy?


The answer is somewhat alarming.

Vice Motherboard reported on Thursday that Twitter programmers are concerned the algorithms used by the site to automatically weed out hate speech could flag the accounts of Republican politicians.

Yikes.

"Content from Republican politicians could get swept up by algorithms aggressively removing white supremacist material," Vice found, based on conversations between Twitter employees. "Banning politicians wouldn’t be accepted by society as a trade-off for flagging all of the white supremacist propaganda, he argued."

This is why Twitter refuses to suspend the accounts of political leaders whose posts technically violate the site's codes of conduct.

And although Twitter told Motherboard that this “is not [an] accurate characterization of our policies or enforcement—on any level," and has strict rules against “abuse and hateful conduct,” many in the public sphere feel the microblogging giant is not doing enough to combat white supremacy.

“We have policies around violent extremist groups,” Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey recently said in a TED interview, but declined to elaborate on why, for example, Nazis are still allowed to post.

Twitter's efforts to eradicate ISIS from its platform offers a clue.

According to experts interviewed by Motherboard, "the measures taken against ISIS were so extreme that, if applied to white supremacy, there would certainly be backlash, because algorithms would obviously flag content that has been tweeted by prominent Republicans—or, at the very least, their supporters."

This means that cracking down on racists could generate bad press, and Twitter certainly does not want that.

For many people, this is unacceptable.

This is not a good look for Twitter - or the Republican Party.

Additionally, Vice noted, there are far more white supremacists - who mostly support President Donald Trump - than there are ISIS sympathizers on Twitter.

“A very large number of white nationalists identify themselves as avid Trump supporters," JM Berger, author of Extremism, told Motherboard.

The company, therefore, fears alienating large groups of people.

“Cracking down on white nationalists will therefore involve removing a lot of people who identify to a greater or lesser extent as Trump supporters, and some people in Trump circles and pro-Trump media will certainly seize on this to complain they are being persecuted,” Berger said. “There's going to be controversy here that we didn't see with ISIS, because 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.”

The other stark difference between combating terrorism and white nationalism is the nuanced approach required for the latter.

For terrorist-related content we've a lot of success with proprietary technology but for other types of content that violate our policies—which can often [be] much more contextual—we see the best benefits by using technology and human review in tandem,” the company said.

Berger added that unlike ISIS, white supremacists do not generally fit into one-size-fits-all molds.

“With ISIS, the group's obsessive branding, tight social networks and small numbers made it easier to avoid collateral damage when the companies cracked down (although there was some),” he said. “White nationalists, in contrast, have inconsistent branding, diffuse social networks and a large body of sympathetic people in the population, so the risk of collateral damage might be perceived as being higher, but it really depends on where the company draws its lines around content.”

Vice also asked Twitter and YouTube if they would follow the example set by Facebook, which banned white supremacist content last month.

Neither company would explicitly commit, and referred Vice to its rules.

“Twitter has a responsibility to stomp out all voices of hate on its platform,” Brandi Collins-Dexter, senior campaign director at activist group Color Of Change told Motherboard in a statement. “Instead, the company is giving a free ride to conservative politicians whose dangerous rhetoric enables the growth of the white supremacist movement into the mainstream and the rise of hate, online and off.”

Win McNamee/Getty Images // CBS Television Distribution

In December, President Donald Trump established the United States Space Force, a sixth branch of the United States Army.

The goal of the force is to protect United States assets in outer space from foreign rivals and is slated to cost around $2 billion in the next five years.

Today, Trump unveiled the official logo for the Space Force, but people think it bears a striking resemblance to another iconic symbol.

Keep reading...
Preston Ehrler/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images // JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images

People were stunned this past July when President Donald Trump tweeted that four Congresswomen of color—Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA)—should "go back" to where they came from.

He also falsely claimed they "originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe..."

Three of the Congresswomen were born in the United States. Omar was a refugee from Somalia. All are Americans.

At a campaign rally days later in North Carolina, President Donald Trump mentioned Congresswoman Omar—and got a strong reaction from the crowd.

While bigotry is common at a Trump rally, it became even more blatant when Trump's supporters began chanting "Send her back," echoing the calls from Trump's tweet for them to "go back" to where they came from.

Keep reading...
Fox News

As Democratic House impeachment managers make their case against President Donald Trump, one of his favorite news networks is going to lengths to keep the bevy of evidence against him from reaching their viewers' ears.

At first, Fox News tried scrolling Trump's so-called accomplishments alongside live video of the historic proceedings. Now, the network's latest attempt to distract from the Democrats' arguments is raising eyebrows even higher.

Keep reading...
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images // Alex Wong/Getty Images

Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman was one of the first witnesses in the House of Representatives' initial impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

Vindman testified before the House's select committee on impeachment late last year after hearing Trump's infamous July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Keep reading...
Alex Wong/Getty Images

The administration of President Donald Trump relies on its white Evangelical base to keep its support consistently hovering around 40 percent.

In keeping with this, President Donald Trump often invokes anti-abortion values he claims to hold dear. He's falsely claimed that Democrats are determined to rip babies from their mothers' wombs and that parents often discuss with their doctors whether or not to keep the baby...after the baby is born.

These claims are patently false, but they rile up the base.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos seems to be playing right along in promoting abortion hysteria, if a recent speech is any indication.

Keep reading...
Fox News

After hours of evidence presented by the House Impeachment managers in the Senate trial against President Donald Trump, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) strayed even further into the abyss of fanaticism as he defended the President to reporters.

Graham, a Trump critic turned ally, didn't attempt to refute any of the myriad evidence laid out by Democrats, but instead dismissed the claims that Trump did anything wrong when he withheld congressionally approved aid from Ukraine in exchange for an investigation into his political rival.

Keep reading...