Nazis Got Me Kicked Off of Twitter
How the far right exploits the platform’s clueless approach to hate speech
Last Friday, I spent the evening worrying about what to do about a neo-Nazi internet campaign targeting me for physical violence. This is not the first time something like this has happened to me but the experience is always unnerving. I reached out to some friends and colleagues to brainstorm solutions and lost a bit of sleep.
When I woke up on Saturday, I found that my Twitter account was permanently suspended. As far as I could tell, individuals on the far-right had launched a campaign to mass report my account and got me kicked off the platform.
As a journalist, Twitter is a critical reporting tool for me, and over the course of the weekend I reached out to Twitter a handful of times trying to determine why, exactly, my account had been suspended and what, if anything, I could do to bring it back. Though my account was eventually reinstated, the experience reinforced my understanding of Twitter as a platform of opaque, contradictory, and inconsistent moderation processes.
In retaliation, far right activists, including a racist, misogynist gang called the Proud Boys, used the messaging app Telegram to encourage others to report my reply to Twitter.
The whole saga began in May 2019, when a far-right troll posted a Twitter thread in which he claimed to have uncovered nefarious associations between antifascist activists and journalists who report on the far right, a common tactic employed by the far-right to discredit journalists and incite harassment that often entails death threats. I wasn’t named in this thread, but I am familiar with the work of the journalists and activists who were.
Exasperated, I responded to the troll’s thread using some unsavory language: “What the fuck is wrong with you cunt.” While I stand by my response, it goes without saying that it was upsetting to some on the far right, who likely knew the tweet would be found in violation of Twitter’s vague and inconsistently applied policies about “hateful conduct.” Either way, I paid a price. In retaliation, far right activists…