Technology

Twitter suspends alt-right figureheads

Blocked accounts Image copyright Twitter
Image caption Several alt-right figures have been suspended from Twitter, but the social network is not saying why

Twitter has suspended the accounts of several members of the American alt-right movement, including the leader of a white nationalist think tank.

The social network has not given an explanation for its actions.

But they come the same week it announced new ways for users to complain about hateful content.

Some alt-right figures have suggested a switch to Gab, an alternative micro-blogging service that promises "free speech for everyone".

But other have their doubts.

"Gab just seems like a pointless echo chamber, there are enough alt-right blogs and forums," wrote one supporter of the movement in a discussion thread about the Twitter suspensions.

"The benefits of Twitter are interacting with normies, influencing discussion and getting alt-right memes trending."


What is the alt-right?

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption A cartoon of Pepe the Frog is a commonly used symbol of the alt-right

Members of the alt-right movement differ on many points, but are generally outspoken in their attacks on multiculturalism, globalisation and immigration.

Their targets include political correctness and feminism, and they have typically characterised themselves as being anti-establishment.

The election of Donald Trump - a presidential candidate supported by much of the alt-right - could change that.

He has appointed Steve Bannon as his chief strategist. Mr Bannon was formerly executive chairman of Breitbart News, a news site that specialises in coverage of the alt-right, but does not identify itself as part of it.

That has led some to speculate about whether certain alt-right views could soon become official US policy.


'Cuck' attacks

USA Today was one of the first mainstream news sites to report the suspensions.

Among them was Richard Spencer, the president of the National Policy Institute, which describes itself as being dedicated to the "identity and future of people of European descent in the United States".

Image copyright Twitter
Image caption Richard Spencer's last tweet - about the UK columnist Katie Hopkins - would not appear to be the cause of the ban

The NPI's own Twitter account and that of its Radix Journal have also been barred by the platform.

Several of the accounts' recent tweets had included the word "cucks" - a term of abuse used by the alt-right to disparage opponents. It is derived from cuckold and signifies the target is in some way weak.

It is not clear, however, whether this was related to Twitter's action.

"[This] is corporate Stalinism in the sense that there is a great purge going on, and they are purging people on the basis of their views," Mr Spencer said in a video he posted to YouTube.

"I and a number of other people who just got banned were not even trolling."

He added he now planned to use Gab instead.

Mr Spencer was banned from visiting the UK earlier this year by the then Home Secretary Theresa May, who suggested his views would "foster hatred which might lead to inter-community violence".

Image copyright Twitter
Image caption Alt-right supporters used Twitter to publicise news of the suspended accounts

USA Today identified four other high-profile alt-right figures who had also been suspended.

The Southern Poverty Law Center - an Alabama-based anti-hate group - welcomed the news.

"Good riddance," it tweeted.

The group said it had previously asked Twitter to remove more than 100 white supremacists' accounts.

Twitter typically allows users accused of abusive behaviour to return after a temporary lockout.

However, it permanently banned Breitbart technology editor Milo Yiannopoulos in July, when it said he had helped incite abuse against the actress Leslie Jones.

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