White supremacy on Twitter is such a common problem that “Jack, ban the Nazis” has became a sort of mantra found beneath almost every tweet by the company’s CEO, Jack Dorsey. The platform has even been referred to as a “Nazi haven” by Techcrunch.
Many have wondered why Twitter hasn’t done more to combat white supremacy. After all, the company has gone up against ISIS and other extremists groups, managing to almost completely eradicate them from its platform.
But, a recent Motherboard report confirmed what most marginalized populations already know: Twitter can’t take a firm stance against white supremacy, because that would mean banning some Republican politicians, too.
Motherboard reported that an employee working on machine learning and artificial intelligence issues at the company said:
With every sort of content filter, there is a tradeoff, he explained. When a platform aggressively enforces against ISIS content, for instance, it can also flag innocent accounts as well, such as Arabic language broadcasters. Society, in general, accepts the benefit of banning ISIS for inconveniencing some others, he said.
In separate discussions verified by Motherboard, that employee said Twitter hasn’t taken the same aggressive approach to white supremacist content because the collateral accounts that are impacted can, in some instances, be Republican politicians.
That doesn’t come as a surprise to people targeted by white supremacist rhetoric. For example, Rep. Steven King (R-Iowa) has openly promoted white nationalist rhetoric on his account before. In March, King went so far as to quote tweet Faith Goldy, a known Canadian white nationalist who recently stirred up controversy on Facebook and was banned from the platform altogether.
It’s also highly likely that if Twitter introduced an algorithm to combat white supremacy, President Trump and some of his supporters would be caught by it. After all, Trump has incited harassment against Representative Ilhan Omar, the first Black Muslim woman wearing hijab in Congress
Republicans often accuse social media platforms of having an “anti-conservative bias”. As Motherboard noted, Trump once tweeted that Twitter “[doesn’t treat me well as a Republican. Very discriminatory. No wonder Congress wants to get involved — and they should.”