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SAN FRANCISCO — On Tuesday, activists representing a coalition of more than 50 civil-rights, human-rights and media-justice organizations drew caution tape around Twitter’s corporate headquarters in protest of the social network’s refusal to address the spread of white supremacy across its platform.  

The action coincides with the release of a Free Press report that documents Twitter’s failure to foster “healthy” conversations and calls on the company to “reckon with the fact that the platform has failed to address safety in a systematic way.”

“The company’s race-neutral approach to combating hateful activities on its site obscures the real harms inflicted on marginalized communities,” write the report’s authors Gaurav Laroia and Carmen Scurato. “Moreover, Twitter’s lack of transparency regarding these efforts has stymied the ability of watchdog groups and civil-society organizations to meaningfully engage with the company to protect our communities.”

Numerous civil-rights leaders have labeled Twitter as toxic, poisoned by white supremacists who use the platform to indoctrinate and organize hateful activities that threaten the most vulnerable users.

This morning, protesters wearing ventilation masks held signs with enlarged tweets posted by prominent white supremacists who still have accounts on the platform. Protesters also delivered a petition, signed by more than 100,000 people, demanding that Twitter ban white supremacists. Allied organizations driving the petition include Free Press, Color Of Change, CREDO Action, Daily Kos, MediaJustice, MPower Change and UltraViolet.


The campaign and event were organized by Change the Terms. For more than a year the coalition has pushed Twitter and other tech companies to adopt model policies it developed to curb online hate. The new Free Press report criticizes Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey for failing to fulfill his commitment to Congress to conduct a civil-rights audit of the platform. The company did not respond to leaders from Charlottesville, Virginia, who joined Change the Terms on the anniversary of the deadly Unite the Rally in September to demand that Twitter remove white supremacists from the platform. The rally, which resulted in the death of peaceful protester Heather Heyer, was organized on Twitter.

“Twitter has told its shareholders that it prioritizes healthy conversation, but the platform has become toxic because CEO Jack Dorsey refuses to ban the white supremacists who are poisoning conversations, weaponizing the platform against our communities and putting our lives in danger,” said Nilda Muhr, campaign manager at Free Press, a founding member of Change the Terms. “Our analysis shows he’s more interested in paying lip service to civil rights than enacting real change. Twitter’s toxicity is not victimless, and it is not bloodless. People in our communities are literally dying at the hands of white supremacists who broadcast and organize hate on Twitter. As long as white supremacists are welcomed, Jack’s Twitter will continue to be a place where divisiveness and danger thrive."

“Twitter’s decision to ban political ads — but not the white supremacists and white nationalists amplifying bigotry and hatred — says everything you need to know about its priorities,” said Color Of Change Senior Campaign Director Jade Magnus Ogunnaike. “Twitter acknowledges its platform can be used for harm, but doesn’t remove the number-one threat to Black people and other marginalized communities. Let’s be clear — anything short of taking responsibility for the content on the platform will be an insufficient response by Twitter to the threats facing our communities.”  

“We’re here today because Twitter, under the direction of Jack Dorsey, remains complicit in the spread of white-nationalist propaganda and agendas that would see communities of color and religious minorities dead,” said Erin Shields, MediaJustice's national field organizer for internet rights. “We’re here today because we know what’s shared online, including speech from elected officials, has deeply felt consequences offline in our communities. And we’re here today because communities of color won’t remain silent about Twitter profiting from white supremacy in this political moment. Over 100,000 people are demanding that Jack clean up the toxicity at Twitter and ban white supremacists and their violent speech from the platform.”

“We live in a world where information and ideas travel faster than we ever imagined,” said Jelani Drew, campaign manager at CREDO Action. “Social media is not just a platform, it is a community of real people with real ideas that have an impact on our daily lives. Twitter refusing to take real action to regulate online hate speech that we know incites violence is beyond irresponsible. It is long past time for Twitter to step up and stop giving violent racists a megaphone and platform for hate.”

Since the launch of Change the Terms in October 2018, coalition members have been in communication with social-media platforms — including Twitter — about strengthening their policies and practices to curb hateful activity online. Twitter has undertaken the following changes: (1) prohibited dehumanizing language and content that misgenders transgender people; (2) committed to examine a group’s online and offline activities in the context of its anti-terrorism policy to determine if they promote violence; (3) implemented multi-level enforcement measures; and (4) decided to ban all political advertising to address misinformation. The Free Press report makes it clear that Twitter is still far from adopting the full set of recommended corporate policies specifically in the areas of enforcement, transparency, evaluation and governance.

The Free Press report features a full analysis of Twitter’s steps to change its policies and practices to combat hateful activity, and examines where the company falls short. The complete Change the Terms model policies can be found here: Change the Terms does not support government-dictated content moderation.

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