CHARLOTTESVILLE — Today, the Change the Terms coalition held a press call with Charlottesville leaders calling on Twitter to ban white supremacists from their platform ahead of the Unite the Right Rally anniversary and in light of recent instances of racially motivated attacks fueled by inflammatory online hate.
The coalition has launched a petition and is urging Twitter to expand its current policy from one that prohibits dehumanizing tweets that target religious affiliations to one that also targets individuals or groups based on their actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, immigration status, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or disability.
As we approach the two-year anniversary of the deadly Unite the Right rally, a range of Unite the Right organizers and associated white-nationalist influencers continue to benefit from their presence on Twitter. Key rally organizers like Richard Spencer, Evan McLaren and Tony Hovater; so-called alt-right podcasters and YouTubers who broadcast live from the rally like Faith Goldy and Mike Peinovich; and figureheads of hate like former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke, who attended and broadcast from the deadly rally, continue to enjoy unfettered use of their Twitter accounts.
Read the petition calling on Twitter to ban white supremacists from its platform: https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/tell-twitter-dump-white-supremacists
Change the Terms supporters and leaders made the following statements:
Susan Bro, mother of Heather Heyer and co-founder of the Heather Heyer Foundation:
“Words have consequences. I grieve alongside the families in El Paso who lost their loved ones, as I lost my daughter two years ago in Charlottesville. We have to stop this inflammatory rhetoric from taking root in society. Twitter can effect change by heeding the Change the Terms coalition’s call to ban white supremacists from its site. Social-media companies must enforce their terms of service against hate in ways that safeguard public safety and our right to free speech.”
Jessica J. González, vice president of strategy and senior counsel at Free Press and co-founder of Change the Terms:
“When Twitter gives well-known white supremacists a platform, even after they have been deemed too extreme by Facebook and YouTube, their company becomes complicit in normalizing racism and the hateful acts inspired by it. Twitter must tell white supremacists they cannot rely on the platform to espouse harmful rhetoric, intimidate, and plan more attacks.”
Don Gathers, co-founder of the Charlottesville chapter of Black Lives Matter:
“The deadly Unite the Right rally was planned on social media, and our community is still feeling the profound impact of that violence today. Whole communities are still living in fear. It’s time these companies used their terms of service to keep white supremacists off Twitter and reduce the hate that leads to tragedy.”
Lisa Woolfork, associate professor at the University of Virginia and organizer with the Charlottesville chapter of Black Lives Matter:
“How white supremacy has become normalized directly connects to Twitter. Extreme discourse has become not so extreme. We are anesthetized to its toxicity. Twitter is the midwife to that and must work to remove white supremacists who peddle racism on its platform with impunity.”
Steven Renderos, co-executive director of MediaJustice:
“Under Jack Dorsey's leadership, Twitter has eroded the trust of its users of color by repeatedly failing to curb the rise of white-supremacist organizing on the platform. As women of color have been consistently harassed and had their voices suppressed, white supremacists — led by Donald Trump — have been allowed to build massive audiences for their hate, often targeting those same Black and Brown women organizing for justice. We have seen time and time again the violent, tragic consequences of this ideology being allowed to spread freely across the internet. It’s beyond time for Jack to act.”
Brandi Collins-Dexter, senior campaign director of Color Of Change:
“From Charlottesville two years ago to El Paso this week, we’ve seen the tragic outcomes of white nationalism spreading on Twitter, made even more dangerous every time Trump is allowed to tweet his bigoted rhetoric. White nationalists use Twitter every day to harass Black people and users from marginalized communities, to build power and organizational strength, and to amplify violent ideologies in this country. It’s time for Jack Dorsey and Twitter’s leadership to get over their fear of conservative backlash and fully stamp out discrimination on the platform. Our civil rights should not be negotiable.”
Twitter continues to host white supremacists who plug conspiracy theories that inspired the shooters in Christchurch, New Zealand, and El Paso, Texas. Among these individuals are French writer and white-nationalist conspiracy theorist Renaud Camus and so-called alt-right YouTuber Lauren Southern.
Despite being published in 2002, Camus’ anti-immigrant conspiracy theory The Great Replacement received minimal attention until July 2017, when Lauren Southern created a viral video sharing the same title based on his writings. While this content inspired violent attacks that left dozens dead and countless others injured, Southern and Camus still enjoy wide-reaching access to audiences on Twitter.
The Change the Terms coalition, which includes more than 55 human-rights, civil-rights and digital-rights groups — including Free Press, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Center for American Progress, Color Of Change, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, MediaJustice, Muslim Advocates and the National Hispanic Media Coalition — has called on Twitter and other online companies to develop more comprehensive policies to disrupt hate and racism on their platforms. The coalition has also urged these platforms to adopt the model corporate policies Change the Terms developed.
For more information, go to changetheterms.org/terms.