If your Twitter timeline looked a little less racist this morning, it’s not because the neo-Nazis slept in.
In the midst of mounting public pressure to take decisive action against its most toxic users, Twitter announced on Monday morning that it had enacted new policies to stem harassment on its platform.
In a new blog post, Twitter Safety explained that users who tweet “specific threats of violence or wishing for serious physical harm, death or disease to an individual or group of people” are in violation of its updated rules. Prohibited behavior, the post explained, includes using “slurs, epithets, racist or sexist tropes, [inciting] fear or [reducing] someone to less than human.”
The punishment for violating these policies, Twitter warned, is a permanent suspension from the platform.
“Today, we are starting to enforce these policies across Twitter,” the blog post said. “In our efforts to be more aggressive here, we may make some mistakes and are working on a robust appeals process. We’ll evaluate and iterate on these changes in the coming days and weeks, and will keep you posted on progress along the way.”
That newly aggressive enforcement appears to have already started: Users noted that multiple accounts associated with various white supremacist hate groups had already been suspended from the site. Perhaps most notable among the terminated accounts is Jayda Fransen of the Britain First party, whose anti-Muslim videos were retweeted by President Donald Trump in November.
The Traditionalist Worker Party, a fringe white nationalist movement that vilifies immigrants, also appears to have lost its account following the announcement of the more extreme enforcement.
But though these newly inactive accounts seem to serve as proof that Twitter is making good on its commitment, it is unclear why some of the nation’s most prominent white supremacists, such as Richard Spencer and former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, were not immediately banned from the site. That their accounts are still actives raises questions about just how far Twitter will go in its enforcement of the new rules — especially since the social network has been known to exempt more high-profile figures from its platform’s policies.
Still, the backlash to the policies has already begun: Hill reporter Will Sommer noted that users of the social platform Gab — a largely rule-free social media site that has become wildly popular with the alt-right — lashed out with memes depicting Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey as Joseph Stalin. Another image depicts two soldiers with the face of Pepe the Frog, one of the alt-right’s mascots, carrying an “account suspended” notice as though it were a corpse on a makeshift stretcher. Perhaps most melodramatically of all, one meme seems to compare Twitter’s “purge” of toxic users to a nuclear holocaust.