Some song lyrics are appropriate here.
This used to be a funhouse
But now it’s full of evil clowns
It’s time to start the countdown
I’m gonna burn it down down down
I’m gonna burn it down
Twitter has been a dung heap for a long time — they’ve been notorious for ignoring harassment and treating some truly awful people with kid gloves, to the point where it was beginning to hurt their reputation and their bottom line. What to do, short of actually cleaning up the service? Announce that they’re finally going to ban some Nazis! And they did, and there was much happy PR.
The American Nazi Party’s account was suspended, as were the accounts belonging to Generation Identity, an extremist youth group, and Vanguard America, a white supremacist group that gained attention for its role in the white nationalist rally that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia in August. (James Fields, who was charged with first-degree murder after driving a car into a crowd of counter-protesters at that rally, killing one person and injuring several others, had attended it in affiliation with Vanguard America.)
Individuals removed as a result of the new policy include the neo-Nazi and leader of the National Socialist Movement Jeff Schoep, as well as Michael Hill, founder of the militant white supremacist group League of the South.
In an extremely significant move, Twitter also suspended two accounts belonging to Paul Golding and Jayda Fransen, the leader and deputy leader of a right-wing British nationalist group called Britain First. Both Fransen and Golding were arrested last week over multiple charges concerning incitement of hate in Northern Ireland. But Fransen in particular is best known in the US for posting last month several extremely violent anti-Muslim propaganda videos, which were controversially retweeted by President Donald Trump.
Feels good, doesn’t it? Quite a few triumphant news articles popped up this week. How nice for Twitter. You know this was their goal, to pick off a few obvious targets, and then sit back and graciously accept the applause.
I’m glad the American Nazi Party’s official Twitter channel has been eradicated. But you know what hasn’t been removed? American Nazis. They’re all still there. What would have been interesting is if they used all the information they have on who was following the Nazi party, and used that to scan deeper. Some of their followers would have been critics investigating them, but others would have been people cheering them on. Can we get rid of them, too?
You know who is still on Twitter? Other racist organizations, like VDare. David Duke, Ann Coulter, Mike Cernovich, Gavin McInnes. Alex Jones and Paul Joseph Watson. You can also search for terms like “White genocide” and “cultural marxism” or various racial slurs and find plenty of small fry who aren’t dissuaded at all.
Donald Trump is still on Twitter. I’ll believe in their commitment to principle when they ban that hatemonger, but they won’t, since their only commitment is to dollars.
Just so you know, 31 December is #TwitterEvacuationDay, when many people are making the jump to alternative micro-blogging media, or just throwing up their hands in disgust and giving it all up. It’s the only way to make Twitter wake up, I think…or at the very least, to personally escape the toxic trap.
I’m recommending that everyone make the leap to Mastodon — or, I hope, that at least some of my friends get an account there. Really, it’s just like Twitter — the interface is exactly like Tweetdeck, if you’re familiar with that. The big difference is that, instead of one giant central server for everyone, it’s distributed among many smaller servers, or instances. You see all the activity on your instance (which is necessarily going to be smaller than what goes on on Twitter), but you can also see what your friends on other instances are doing, and you can also browse the contents of federated instances…that is, servers linked to yours.
It sounds more complicated than it is. Just think of your instance as your local neighborhood, but you can easily stay in touch with everyone you want in other neighborhoods.
Go read about Mastodon if you’re thinking about it. I’ve found it a most pleasant social experience. For one thing, the admins don’t allow Nazis to frolic about, and the fact that each instance administrator has a smaller group of people to manage means harassment gets noticed and slapped down hard.
If you’re curious about what kind of instances there are out there, there’s a page that lets you search for your options. For example, you can find an instance that flat out prohibits nudity or spoilers (you can get kicked out if you violate the rules), or one that says sure, you can post your naked re-enactment of the climactic scenes from The Last Jedi. Each instance may also have a general theme — there are SciFi servers, for example, so you can move into a place where your neighbors are more likely to talk about the latest SF novels.
And then you can just join Mastodon through the instance of your choice. It’s easy.
You can find me at @firstname.lastname@example.org. Send me a hello when you’ve signed up.