Twitter this week suspended several prominent accounts linked to the alt-right movement, the fringe white nationalist group that helped propel President-elect Donald Trump to the White House. As USA Today reports, the site suspended the accounts on Tuesday, the same day it announced a long-awaited measure to combat abuse on its platform.
Among the users suspended this week is Richard Spencer, head of the National Policy Institute, a white nationalist think tank that, according to its website, is "dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of people of European descent in the United States." Spencer's personal verified account was suspended, as were those of the National Policy Institute and his magazine, Radix Journal. Other suspended alt-right Twitter users include Paul Town, Pax Dickinson, Ricky Vaughn and John Rivers.
In an interview with The Daily Caller, Spencer described Twitter's move as "corporate Stalinism." "Twitter is trying to airbrush the alt-right out of existence," he told the website. "They’re clearly afraid. They will fail!" In a YouTube video posted online Tuesday, he said that online "execution squads" were targeting the alt-right, comparing it, curiously, to Adolf Hitler's purge of Nazi leaders in 1934.
Twitter declined to comment on the suspensions in a statement to USA Today, citing "privacy and security reasons."
The site has come under increased pressure in recent years to crack down on abuse and trolling among its users, and its failure to do so reportedly thwarted potential acquisition bids from Disney and Salesforce. On Tuesday, Twitter announced a new feature that allows users to mute keywords, phrases, emoji, user names, and hashtags.
The alt-right movement has flourished on both Facebook and Twitter, despite complaints over the group's hateful rhetoric and abuse. A study from George Washington University in September found that although Twitter has effectively cracked down on accounts linked to ISIS, white nationalists and neo-Nazis have continued to thrive on the platform "with relative impunity." In July, Twitter banned notorious troll Milo Yiannopoulos after he encouraged his followers to tweet racist messages to Ghostbusters actress Leslie Jones, though before Tuesday, the site had never suspended alt-right accounts en masse.
The suspensions also come after Trump's controversial decision to appoint Steve Bannon as chief strategist in his administration. Bannon, the executive chairman of the right-wing site Breitbart News, served as Trump's campaign CEO and has openly espoused racist, sexist, and anti-Semitic views in the past. His appointment to a top White House post has raised serious concerns over the influence he may wield over the Trump administration.