Twitter bans white-nationalist group Canadian Nationalist Front

Twitter suspended accounts associated with the white-nationalist group Canadian Nationalist Front on Tuesday, a day after Facebook banned that group as well as others it said promoted “organized hate” from its platform. The move comes as lawmakers in Canada and abroad debate imposing new rules on social-media companies in the wake of deadly shootings at two mosques in New Zealand.

On Tuesday, Twitter declined to comment but confirmed that multiple accounts affiliated with the group were permanently suspended under its Violent Extremist Group policy.

That policy was launched in December, 2017. A spokesperson would not answer questions regarding specifics, including why Twitter did not apply the policy to the Canadian Nationalist Front earlier, or whether the decision was related to Facebook’s wider ban Monday.

Twitter also declined to comment on whether the Canadian Nationalist Front suspension was connected with the threat of regulation from Ottawa this week ahead of the federal election later this year. Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould said Monday that social-media companies are not doing enough to protect Canadian democracy. “This is something you could do on your own, but in the absence of you doing it on your own, then we need to look at other mechanisms,” she told reporters.

Social-media companies have been facing renewed pressure from lawmakers in Canada and elsewhere to stop hate speech from spreading online since a gunman killed 50 people in two mosques in Christchurch last month and livestreamed the shootings on Facebook.

British lawmakers introduced a white paper this week proposing a social-media watchdog that could fine executives and ban companies, while a European Union committee backed a proposal to impose hefty fines on web companies if they failed to remove terrorism-related content within an hour. Australian lawmakers last week made it a crime for social-media firms to not swiftly take down “abhorrent violent material."

During a U.S. congressional hearing on Tuesday into white nationalism on social media, Democratic lawmakers pressed representatives of Google and Facebook to work harder to stop hate speech from spreading online, even as Republican committee members charged the companies with censoring conservative voices online.

“These platforms are like round-the-clock digital white supremacist rallies,” Eileen Hershenov of the Anti-Defamation League told the hearing, estimating that the majority of extremist murders in the United States last year were carried out by white supremacists.

YouTube was forced to close down comments on its live feed of the congressional hearing after it was flooded with racist and anti-Semitic posts.

On Monday, Facebook said it had banned the Canadian Nationalist Front and its chairman Kevin Goudreau, Aryan Strikeforce, Wolves of Odin and Soldiers of Odin, along with media commentator and former Toronto mayoral candidate Faith Goldy.

Twitter on Monday declined to comment on the accounts that Facebook had removed and did not respond to questions about why it continued to allow some of the same groups to continue to post on Twitter.

Twitter’s “zero-tolerance” policy says users “may not make specific threats of violence or wish for the serious physical harm, death, or disease of an individual or group of people.”

Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey has frequently said the company’s top priority is “conversational health,” including at an event in Toronto last week – though it has historically been slower than Facebook at addressing issues of hate speech.

Mr. Goudreau did not respond to requests for comment. His group describes its goal as “a return to Canada’s traditional ethnic demographics." A recent post on its blog announced it was raising money for tactical equipment and riot gear to help “defend against leftist and communist terrorists when the police are overwhelmed or sometimes unwilling to keep the peace.”

Ms. Goldy, who was fired from Rebel Media in 2017 after appearing on a podcast affiliated with a neo-Nazi website, was not among those suspended by Twitter. She told The Globe and Mail on Monday that "I’ve committed no crime. I’m not part of any sort of hate group,” and that she was considering a lawsuit against Facebook.

A day after Facebook announced it had banned Ms. Goldy, users complained to the social-media giant about seeing ads supporting Ms. Goldy running on the platform. The page and its administrators were later removed for being inauthentic, Facebook said, meaning the ads were run by people pretending to be the far-right Canadian commentator.

YouTube, which is owned by Alphabet Inc.’s Google, allowed accounts run by Ms. Goldy and Mr. Goudreau to remain active on Tuesday. The company said it had taken steps to reduce the spread of videos that contained controversial content on religion or supremacists views. The social-media firm pointed to a YouTube video from Ms. Goldy that was covered by a disclaimer and had comments disabled.

 

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