Activists: Twitter needs to ban white supremacists

aug. 12The Change the Terms Coalition held a press call with leaders from Charlottesville Wednesday to publicize its call on Twitter to ban white supremacists from its platform ahead of the Unite the Right Rally anniversary.

The coalition has launched a petition and is urging Twitter to expand their current policy from one that prohibits dehumanizing tweets that target religious affiliations to include those also targeting individuals or groups based on their actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, immigration status, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability.

Key organizers of the rally like Richard SpencerEvan McLaren and Tony Hovater, along with alt-right podcasters and YouTubers who broadcast live from the rally like Faith Goldy, and Mike Peinovich, and figureheads of hate like former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke, who attended and broadcast from the deadly rally, continue to enjoy unfettered use of their Twitter accounts.

“Words have consequences. I grieve alongside the families in El Paso who lost their loved ones, as I lost my daughter two years ago in Charlottesville,” said Susan Bro, mother of Heather Heyer and co-founder of the Heather Heyer Foundation. “We have to stop this inflammatory rhetoric from taking root in society.  Twitter can affect change by heeding the Change the Terms coalition’s call to ban white supremacists from its site. Social media companies must enforce their terms of service against hate in ways that safeguard public safety and our right to free speech.”

“When Twitter gives well-known white supremacists a platform, even after they have been deemed too extreme by Facebook and YouTube, their company becomes complicit in normalizing racism and the hateful acts inspired by it,” said Jessica J. González, Vice President of Strategy at Free Press and Co-founder of Change the Terms. “Twitter must tell white supremacists they cannot rely on the platform to espouse harmful rhetoric, intimidate, and plan more attacks.

“The deadly Unite the Right rally was planned on social media, and our community is still feeling the profound impact of that violence today. Whole communities are still living in fear. It’s time these companies use their terms of service to keep white supremacists off Twitter and reduce the hate that leads to tragedy,” said Don Gathers, Co-founder of the Charlottesville chapter of Black Lives Matter.

“How white supremacy has become normalized directly connects to Twitter,” said Lisa Woolfork, Associate Professor at the University of Virginia and organizer with the Charlottesville chapter of Black Lives Matter. “Extreme discourse has become not-so-extreme anymore. We are anesthetized to its toxicity. Twitter is midwife to that and must work to remove white supremacists who peddle racism on its platform with impunity.”

“Under Jack Dorsey’s leadership, Twitter has eroded the trust of its users of color by repeatedly failing to curb the rise of white-supremacist organizing on the platform,” said Steven Renderos, Co-Executive Director of MediaJustice. “As women of color have been consistently harassed and had their voices suppressed, white supremacists — led by Donald Trump — have been allowed to build massive audiences for their hate, often targeting those same Black and brown women organizing for justice. We have seen time and time again the violent, tragic consequences of this ideology being allowed to spread freely across the Internet. It’s beyond time for Jack to act.”

“From Charlottesville two years ago to El Paso this week, we’ve seen the tragic outcomes of white nationalism spreading on Twitter, made even more dangerous every time Trump is allowed to tweet his bigoted rhetoric,” said Color Of Change Senior Campaign Director Brandi Collins-Dexter. “White nationalists use Twitter every day to harass Black people and users from marginalized communities, to build power and organizational strength, and to amplify violent ideologies in this country. It’s time for Jack Dorsey and Twitter’s leadership to get over their fear of conservative backlash and fully stamp out discrimination on the platform. Our civil rights should not be negotiable.”

The Change the Terms coalition, that includes more than 55 human, civil, and digital rights groups – including Free Press, Southern Poverty Law Center, Center for American Progress, National Hispanic Media Coalition, MediaJustice, Color of Change, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Muslim Advocates – has called Twitter and other social technology companies to develop more comprehensive policies to disrupt hate and racism on their sites, as well as urged the adoption of their model corporate policies.

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