While providing an excellent platform for communication with the public, the open nature of Twitter has led to an abuse of the platform to involve significant amounts of hate speech. It stands by the First Amendment, promoting Freedom of Speech; nevertheless, the debate rages as to the limits of this freedom.
In fact, the Union of Jewish French Students sued Twitter for $50 million in 2013 for anti-Semitic hashtags. Additionally, prominent professors such as: Jeremy Waldron and Richard Delgado push for “enlightened censorship” to suppress bigotry, while others such as Greg Lukianoff, the president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, argue that “the idea that society achieves something positive by mandating that people with bad opinions must hide them, or discuss them only in forums of the like-minded, is not only extraordinarily naive, it can be dangerous. Bigots driven into echo chambers may only become more extreme.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center reported in 2016 that “of the 19,253 tweets directed at journalists examined by the ADL, 68 percent were sent by just 1,600 accounts in a universe of over 300 million total accounts. Those accounts disproportionately are comprised of adherents to what’s become known as the Alt-Right. Clearly, the platform has emboldened the Alt-Right’s factions to propagate their views and this vocal minority continues to grow. Richard Spencer, President of the National Policy Institute, an alt-right, and blatantly racist organization, deems Twitter critical to his work.
Things have changed, and Twitter’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, admits that the “minimalist” approach to moderation was not effective, in which more aggressive stance was needed. In fact, Dorsey stated: “We’ve been working intensely over the past few months and focused today on making some critical decisions”. He added: “New rules around: unwanted sexual advances, non-consensual nudity, hate symbols, violent groups, and tweets that glorifies violence.” Unfortunately, alt-right members abuse the sites own rules, such as the harassment reporting tools, to promote their own agenda. Twitter’s administration has been praised for the move, and it is hoped that this will be the first of many other steps to suppress hate speech and racism on Twitter.
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