Twitter suspends accounts of Britain First leaders under new abuse rules

19 Dec 2017

Twitter app on mobile. Image: Sattalat phukkum/Shutterstock

Twitter is tackling the major hate-speech problem plaguing its platform.

It has been a fraught year for Twitter as politics and social media have become even more intertwined with one another.

The company found that Russian operatives had tried to interfere with US politics on the website, and it has been battling accusations of enabling harassment and hate speech for some time now.

Twitter has released a calendar detailing initiatives to combat the abusive behaviour on the site. New rules that came into effect yesterday (18 December) have seen the accounts of the leader and deputy leader of far-right group Britain First suspended.

Paul Golding and Jayda Fransen’s accounts were unavailable yesterday as the new regulations were enacted.

The official Britain First Twitter account has also been suspended, and past posts from these accounts can no longer appear on Twitter’s timeline.

Trump’s retweets caused controversy

In recent weeks, Fransen had been in the media spotlight as US president Donald Trump retweeted several videos from her account, which espoused Islamophobic views.

At the time, UK prime minister Theresa May’s spokesperson said that the president’s actions had been “wrong”.

According to the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Trump had retweeted the content to “elevate the conversation” around extremist violence and terrorism.

Both Golding and Fransen were arrested last week over charges related to behaviour intended to, or likely to, incite hatred, according to the BBC.

Twitter accounts for American Renaissance – deemed an extremist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center – were also banned, among other far-right and white-nationalist organisations.

Twitter cracking down on violent extremists

According to the new rules enforced by Twitter, “violent extremist groups will be banned from having accounts. Those who call for violence against individuals or ethnic and social groups, or promote violence as a main objective, will be targeted.”

Hate symbols or logos in profile pictures or cover photos will also be regarded as grounds for punishment. Those found in violation of the regulations will have one chance to remedy the situation before account suspension occurs.

Twitter said it will make the decision as to what constitutes an extremist group through consultations with governments, non-profits and experts.

The Twitter Safety team stated that there is still a long way to go to fine-tune the process: “In our efforts to be more aggressive here, we may make some mistakes, and are working on a robust appeals process.

“We’ll evaluate and iterate on these changes in the coming days and weeks, and will keep you posted on progress along the way.”

Twitter app on mobile. Image: Sattalat phukkum/Shutterstock

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects