Can Twitter Be Trusted with Its New ‘Violent Images’ Rules?

Published December 22, 2017

Do you trust Twitter?

On Monday, the social media giant began to roll out its plan to ban groups it deems too violent for its platform. It is unknown just how many accounts will be purged in the great reckoning, but a clear pattern is already emerging.

Alternative-right or ‘alt-right’ nationalist figureheads have been the first to fall. The American Renaissance—a white nationalist magazine—and its founder Jared Taylor have both been suspended. Leaders for Britain First, a British nationalist party most famous for its aggressive stance on immigration and a recent retweet from President Trump, were also suspended. League of the South, an Alabaman white nationalist group who wants an “Independent Southern Republic,” has been suspended. The Traditionalist Workers Party—a white nationalist, anti-Semitic group—has been suspended. And many more are sure to follow in their wake.

Twitter’s suspension strategy is obvious; it is going directly after fringe groups that promote violence. It would be tough for anyone to argue nationalist groups are not menacing and, on occasion, even violent, as demonstrated by the Charlottesville protests. Beneath the surface of Twitter’s strategy, however, is something far more disingenuous.

Twitter announced it is targeting “violent” groups, but one quick search shows the radical leftist group Antifa—the “anti-fascist” terrorist group known for starting riots, attacking peaceful protestors, and is currently under investigation by the FBI—has not yet been banned. Black Lives Matter—whose members have killed law enforcement officials, chanted for the killing of cops, and nearly destroyed all of Baltimore—has also not been banned.

Twitter is clearly taking a hardline stance against “right-wing” violence and radical political stances, but they are ignoring left-wing groups. Why would Twitter do this? And why has Twitter silenced some non-violent, non-racist conservative voices? This apparent bias isn’t limited to Twitter, either. YouTube has gone after popular conservative voices by demonetizing them, and Facebook supposedly has kept conservative outlets from trending.

Twitter is a massive company with an incredible ability to influence public opinion, and as such, it has a civic duty to protect the rights outlined in the First Amendment. Hate speech, no matter how much you may disagree with it, has a place in public discourse in a free society. Policies that protect all speech are not in place to protect those who espouse dangerous ideologies, but rather those who challenge any mainstream belief. Those who go against the grain should never be shut down simply because those in power disagree with a dissenting voice.

By cracking down on extremist figures, Twitter and other social media platforms are not solving any problems. They are only making it easier to eliminate more mainstream conservatives in the future, while protecting leftists—including radical, violent leftists.

Who is to say Twitter’s definition of “violence” or “dangerous” won’t become synonymous with important conservative ideas? Are right-to-life protestors at an abortion clinic “violent”? What if you have a negative opinion on the transgender movement and think children are too immature to make that life-altering decision? Anybody who disagrees can be removed from the online public sphere with just a click of the button. So, the question is, do you trust Twitter to fairly manage this process and only choose to remove the truly dangerous posters? I certainly don’t.