Twitter suspends accounts of British far-right group leaders

Twitter starts enforcing new policies on violence, abuse, and hateful conduct

Twitter suspended the accounts of well-known white nationalists Monday, moving swiftly to enforce its new rules aimed at reducing what it deems abusive content.

United Kingdom authorities arrested Golding and Fransen earlier this week over incendiary comments about Islam that they made over the summer in Northern Ireland, the BBC reports.

President Donald Trump caused an uproar last month when he retweeted several of Fransen's posts that contained anti-Islam videos.

Twitter has begun enforcing stricter policies on violent and abusive content like hateful images or symbols, including those attached to user profiles. The social media service announced the policy change in November.

As a private company, Twitter has the legal right to block any speech it wants, since the First Amendment only applies to government control of speech.

British Minister of State for Digital Matthew Hancock tweeted that the account suspensions were a "good step forward" for Twitter.

Hateful imagery, including swastikas, will be considered "sensitive media", and not immediately displayed as part of the changes to "related content".

Twitter has 330 million monthly active users. Many white nationalists have, for example, adopted the symbol of Pepe the Frog, a meme that was transformed during the 2016 presidential campaign to be a symbol of far-right Trump supporters.

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"If an account's profile information includes a violent threat or multiple slurs, epithets, racist or sexist tropes, incites fear, or reduces someone to less than human, it will be permanently suspended", Twitter's safety team explained in a company blog post Monday.

Hate imagery will now fall under the rubric of Twitter's "sensitive media policy", and that will include any "logos, symbols, or images whose objective is to promote hostility and malice against others based on their race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity/national origin".

The group's main account as well as those of leader Paul Golding and deputy leader Jayda Fransen were first blocked by Twitter on Monday, according to The Telegraph.

The company declined to specify what others or how many were removed.

One rule regarding violence takes into account Twitter users' activity offline, forbidding users from affiliating with organisations that promote violence against civilians either on or off the site.

In addition to Golding and Fransen, the BBC reports that American Nazi Party, the Traditionalist Working Party and other neo-Nazi or alt-right accounts have been suspended for failing to comply with Twitter's new policy.

But Twitter said it would not cut off accounts for military or government entities, and would consider exceptions "for groups that are now engaging in (or have engaged in) peaceful resolution".

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