Twitter is Questioning if Nazis Belong on Twitter

Twitter has started conducing in-house research in an effort to better understand how white nationalists and white supremacists use Twitter. According to Vice, Twitter is trying to decide whether those groups should be banned from Twitter, or if they should be allowed to stay so their views can be debated by others.

Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s head of trust and safety, legal and public policy, said Twitter believes “counter-speech and conversation are a force for good, and they can act as a basis for de-radicalization, and we’ve seen that happen on other platforms, anecdotally.”

“So one of the things we’re working with academics on is some research here to confirm that this is the case,” she added.

Vice reported that the idea that “counter-speech” can counteract white supremacy specifically on Twitter is one that academics are skeptical of. Vice spoke with Becca Lewis, who researches networks on far right influencers on social media for the nonprofit Data & Society, and Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters. Both said that Twitter’s platform makes that very unlikely.

Part of the reason is because changing someone’s mind requires engaging in good-faith conversations. Twitter is simply not a good environment for that. Instead, Twitter is often used for brigading. People also make bots and sock puppet accounts specifically to harass people.

I find it strange that Twitter is considering allowing white nationalists and white supremacists to remain on their platform. It is abundantly clear that most people don’t want those groups around. For example, every time Twitter announces a new feature, several users respond with “Great! Now ban the Nazis!”

2 thoughts on “Twitter is Questioning if Nazis Belong on Twitter

  1. Andrew, I think the slippery slope you are setting up might be an exaggeration. I don’t think Twitter is going to ban fad-dieters, flat-earthers, or religious fundamentalists. Their views are, as you wrote “stupid ideas that other people find repulsive”. Nazi’s go farther than that, though. Some take their hateful views offline and engage in acts of violence. I think that is one reason why Twitter is considering banning the Nazi’s.

    That said, Twitter talks big, but rarely follows through on their threats to ban people who are breaking the Twitter rules or harassing others on the platform. Personally, I think Twitter is a giant mess, and I spend less time on it and more time on Mastodon now.

  2. I have a great deal of difficulty with the banning of people simply because they have stupid ideas that other people find repulsive. Where does this stop? There’s a spectrum of ideas from Nazis, holocaust deniers, anti-vaxxers, flat earthers, religious fundamentalists, fad dieters, …. Yes, I’d certainly say anyone who advocates violence or harrasses people needs to go, but I think there’s a real danger that any dissension against the populist view will be banned. It’s all too easy to say that these are “bad” ideas and should go but the majority isn’t always right by a long shot.

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