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American to Fight Twitter over Social Media Ban

25 February, 2018

A white nationalist is taking Twitter to court for banning his account with the social networking service.

The case comes at the same time when social networks are trying to stop hateful and abusive content without appearing to block unpopular opinions.

Jared Taylor launched the case Tuesday in California, at a state court in San Francisco. The Associated Press (AP) described it as the latest legal action by right-wing groups and people banned from social media websites.

In a March 22, 2015 file photo, U.S. writer Jared Taylor, author of the book
In a March 22, 2015 file photo, U.S. writer Jared Taylor, author of the book "White Identity" speaks during the International Russian Conservative Forum in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Taylor is the founder of the Virginia-based New Century Foundation. For tax purposes, the Internal Revenue Service lists the foundation as a charity. The group operates an online magazine, called American Renaissance. The magazine supports a belief that it is "entirely normal" for white people to want to be a majority race.

Social media under pressure

Social media sites are facing public pressure to quickly identify and ban material considered to be abusive or hateful.

The AP reports that Twitter suspended the accounts of well-known white nationalists in December. At the time, the company said it was enforcing new rules to reduce abusive content.

Twitter's new policy targets hateful images or signs, including those appearing with user profiles. The company said it now looks at hateful imagery in the same way as strong violence and adult content, which Twitter has banned since its creation.

Taylor said Twitter informed him in an email on Dec.18 that it was suspending his account and one in the name of American Renaissance. He said Twitter claimed that the accounts violated the company's user agreement, which bars ties with "a violent extremist group." Twitter did not name the extremist group, he said.

Taylor denies that he and his organization support violence or have ties with groups that do. His case seeks unspecified damages and the restarting of Taylor's accounts.

White conservatives fighting bans

Similar cases have been brought in California. Charles Johnson brought a case against Twitter in a Fresno court after he was banned in 2015. The Associated Press describes Johnson as a conservative activist. The court has yet to rule on his case.

The nonprofit Prager University has brought legal action against Google in a Los Angeles federal court. The school claims YouTube wrongfully blocked some of its politically conservative content.

Some of those who have been banned report that social networks are unfairly blocking free speech and limiting their public communication. Taylor claimed in his case that Twitter's ban has hurt efforts by the New Century Foundation to raise money.

Politically conservative Twitter users filled social media sites on Wednesday with claims that they lost thousands of followers after a "purge" of suspected Russian bots.

"TwitterLockOut" became a top trending story in the United States for several hours.

Richard Spencer, a white nationalist with more than 80,000 followers, tweeted that he's "lost close to 1,000" of them over the past few hours. He added that there was a "major purge underway." But some hours later, he reported that his followers were slowly returning to social media.

Last Friday, U.S. special counsel Robert Mueller charged 13 Russians in a plot to interfere in the 2016 presidential election through social media propaganda.

In a statement, Twitter said its tools are not political. "We enforce our rules without political bias," it added.

The company estimates that about 5 percent of its accounts are unwanted emails or bots, programs that can infect computers. Twitter uses both human workers and computer programs to remove harmful accounts. However, they said it can be difficult because new accounts are easy to create.

I'm Phil Dierking.

Barbara Ortutay originally wrote this story for VOAnews.com. Phil Dierking adapted it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

What do you think the difference is between hateful content and strong beliefs? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section or on 51VOA.COM.


Words in This Story

Bot - n. a device or piece of software that can execute commands, reply to messages, or perform routine tasks, as online searches, either automatically or with minimal human intervention

Bias - n. a tendency to believe that some people, ideas, etc., are better than others that usually results in treating some people unfairly

Charity - n. an organization that helps people who are poor, sick, etc.

Content - n. the ideas, facts, or images that are in a book, article, speech, movie, etc.

Purge - v. to remove people from an area, country, organization, etc., often in a violent and sudden way

Right-wing - adj. the part of a political group that consists of people who support conservative or traditional ideas and policies

Unspecified - adj. not named or mentioned