Twitter announced Tuesday that it is expanding efforts to protect its users from abuse and harassment, the latest milestone in a broader, growing corporate campaign to crack down on online hate. The social media giant said it has begun identifying people who have been banned for abusive behavior and it will stop them from creating new accounts. The company said its changes, which also include a new "safe search" feature, will be implemented in the coming weeks.
In July, Twitter banned conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, an editor of the right-wing news site Breitbart News, for "participating in or inciting targeted abuse of individuals." Twitter subsequently suspended the accounts of other prominent figureheads of the "alt-right" fringe movement, an amorphous mix of racism, white nationalism, xenophobia and anti-feminism.Twitter has been under fire for failing to address hate and abuse on the site since its founding a decade ago. Balancing its reputation as a free speech haven has come into conflict with efforts to protect users. Other internet companies have taken recent steps to curb abusive behavior and ban users who violate rules against promoting hate.
Reddit banned a forum for white nationalists from its social news website last Wednesday. A message at the link for the "r/altright" subreddit attributed its ban to an impermissible "proliferation of personal and confidential information."
Also last week, the crowdfunding website GoFundMe removed a campaign for a conservative author and self-described "researcher" on the internet conspiracy theory known as "pizzagate," which alleged with no evidence that Democrats were running a child sex ring out of a Washington, D.C., pizza shop. Brittany Pettibone had launched her GoFundMe campaign for a video podcast about "traditional values that once made Western Civilization great," including "love of one's own culture, race and country."
Hate speech and promoting violence have long been barred under the terms of service of internet and social media companies such as Twitter and Facebook. But in the months leading up to the contentious presidential election, the emergence of the "alt-right" and high-profile trolling campaigns like one targeting "Ghostbusters" star Leslie Jones thrust the issue to the forefront.
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