Last month, Twitter put up another blog post declaring that it had made “strides” to build a “healthier” service. Fewer bots, less spam, proactive policing of abuse. It sounded, again, like progress.
Then Twitter’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, appeared at TED2019 in Vancouver, Canada, to talk about the “health of the conversation” on his platform. Dorsey, who still commands puffy profiles in The New York Times, often resorts to meaningless jargon when confronted with actual questions. In Vancouver, he threw around terms like “shared reality” and “variety of perspective.” He talked about watching “measurements trend over time.” Eventually, the TED moderator, Chris Anderson, cut him off.
“Jack, just picking up on some of the questions flooding in,” Anderson said. “A lot of people [are] puzzled why, like, how hard is it to get rid of Nazis from Twitter?”
Dorsey, who became a billionaire by monetizing outrage online, laughed uncomfortably. Again with the Nazis? Dorsey has never had a good answer to this question. He still doesn’t.
“We have policies around violent and extremist groups,” he told the audience in Vancouver. “And the majority of our work and our terms of service works on conduct, not content. So we’re actually looking for conduct. So conduct being using the service to periodically or episodically to harass someone, using hateful imagery that might be associated with the KKK or the American Nazi Party. Those are all things that we act on immediately.”
If those policies worked, the alt-right podcast king Mike “Enoch” Peinovich would not have been on Twitter this month mocking a new memorial in Montgomery, Alabama, dedicated to African American victims of white supremacy. Peinovich would not be on Twitter advertising a neo-Nazi podcast on which he disparages the memorial as a “dumb monument that’s meant to be an assault on the white people of this country [because] nobody cares about black people… Kikes gave money to build this piece of trash.” He would not be on Twitter inspiring one of his white nationalist followers to tweet a photo of flames consuming the memorial with the message: “Shame to let that nice wood go to waste … Metaphorically speaking” ― a reference to the rash of arsons around the country targeting mosques, black churches and social justice centers.
We underestimated the level of bad actors that we would see and the level of impact they would have. Ev Williams, Twitter co-founder
The white supremacist accused of murdering 51 people in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March was also on Twitter, where he spread Islamophobia, white supremacist propaganda and articles about terrorist attacks. He tweeted pictures of his weapons and posted links to a disturbing manifesto he wrote, apparently in anticipation of the deadly rampage. Only after he was charged in a mass murder did Twitter act.
The shooter may have carried out the genocidal end goal of white supremacy, but there are thousands of white supremacists on Twitter with the same mindset, most of them anonymous and working in concert. In a 2018 study, extremism expert J.M. Berger offered an “extremely conservative” estimate that at least 100,000 alt-right users are on Twitter. The repercussions for these bad actors are practically nonexistent.
“We just didn’t invest enough,” Twitter co-founder Ev Williams, who also became a billionaire by monetizing outrage online, told CNN Business this week. “We underestimated the level of bad actors that we would see and the level of impact they would have.”
Take the anonymous alt-right troll called “Spicci,” who leads a harassment gang on Twitter called The Shed and has appeared on white nationalist podcasts to wish death on journalists. For years, Twitter has allowed him to run multiple fake accounts and use the service to menace people and tweet racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic content. Although Spicci has been reported countless times, Twitter typically does nothing. When the company does suspend him, he returns within minutes and continues harassing people. But the process of evaluating his “conduct” starts anew.
Norman “Trey” Garrison of Texas, a failed journalist turned white nationalist podcaster who goes by “Spectre” online, has similarly cycled through dozens of accounts and easily sidestepped Twitter suspensions so he can harass and threaten people. Twitter lets Amy Mekelburg, a notorious Islamophobe endorsed by President Donald Trump and followed by several members of his administration, stay on the platform to blast hate about “Muslim invaders” that is all too similar to some of the language in the Christchurch suspect’s manifesto. Mike Cernovich, a far-right propagandist, rape apologist and conspiracy theorist who collaborates with white nationalists, uses Twitter to smear people as pedophiles. But Cernovich, who has been praised by Donald Trump Jr., is still on the platform as well, even after a man deluded by the “Pizzagate” disinformation campaign Cernovich spread stormed a restaurant with an AR-15 and fired off some shots.
Indeed, many far-right extremists are enjoying an unbroken run of hideous behavior on Twitter that stretches back to at least the start of the Gamergate harassment campaign in 2014. They join in pro-Trump Kremlin-linked disinformation operations such as Pizzagate, the Seth Rich conspiracy and QAnon. They use Twitter in an effort to incite racist violence ― for example, by falsely blaming the recent Notre Dame cathedral fire on Muslims. And they use it to celebrate their terrorist attacks, such as the one in Christchurch.
“These same exact social media tools, whether used to recruit or propagate ideology or promote acts of terrorism, are the same tools that we saw being used by ISIS and foreign terrorist organizations,” Mary McCord, who oversaw terrorism prosecutions at the Department of Justice from 2014 to 2017 and is now a visiting professor at Georgetown University Law Center, said at a recent event at the New America think tank in Washington.
In 2018, every one of the 50 extremist killings in the United States tracked by the Anti-Defamation League was committed by a perpetrator with ties to a right-wing extremist group. White supremacists were responsible for 78% of them. The rising number of “lone wolf” attacks ― such as the ones at synagogues in Pittsburgh and Poway, California, as well as murders in recent years carried out by terrorists such as church shooter Dylann Roof ― show that the online radicalization process for these homegrown extremists is frighteningly similar to that of ISIS, which relied heavily on Twitter to advance its bloody agenda.
In 2015, for example, 23,880 ISIS accounts generated around 17.4 million tweets, according to an analysis by a group of computer scientists at Texas A&M University and the University of Southern California. That comes out to 730 annual tweets per ISIS account.
White nationalist accounts are far more prolific. A team of data scientists called ”Susan Bourbaki Anthony” looked at a smaller dataset of 44 white nationalist accounts from May 1, 2017, to April 30, 2018, and found that the accounts posted at least 173,426 tweets during that period. That’s 3,942 annual tweets per white nationalist account ― more than five times the rate of the ISIS accounts. Yet Twitter executives have done far less about white supremacy.
Toward the end of April, it became clear why, as Dorsey slouched into the Oval Office to meet his most controversial customer.
President Trump routinely violates Twitter policies against abuse and harassment, uses the service to whip up his racist followers and retweets white nationalists like Lauren Southern. Twitter permits this behavior out of what it calls, in an Orwellian twist, a concern for the “public interest.” The president nevertheless used his April meeting with Dorsey ― much as Republicans did in a similar meeting last year ― to complain about how Twitter censors “conservative” voices. (Earlier this month, the Trump administration unveiled an online tool for people to report this supposed censorship ― along with their personal data ― directly to the White House, a move that was hailed by some white nationalists.)
For its part, Twitter cast the Trump-Dorsey summit as focused on ”protecting the health of the public conversation ahead of the 2020 U.S. elections.” On the same day as his White House visit, however, Dorsey called Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) to tell her that he would not take down a misleading tweet by Trump that appeared to incite violence against the Muslim congresswoman and resulted in a flood of death threats against her, many of them on Twitter.
Two days later, Vice’s Motherboard published a story that shed new light on Dorsey’s unwillingness to crack down on Nazis. In the piece, an anonymous employee explained that, though Twitter had done an admirable job algorithmically scrubbing ISIS propaganda from the platform, the company won’t do the same with white supremacist content because the algorithms would flag Republican politicians and their followers. Twitter advertises itself as politically neutral, but the company’s failure to check far-right extremism is in itself a political decision. Large numbers of white nationalists support Trump, according to extremism experts. Those “conservative” voices Trump wants in full throat on social media are often goose-stepping online with the “very fine people” who rioted in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017. In May, the administration cited free speech concerns in refusing to sign an international call to action to combat online extremism in the wake of the Christchurch massacre.
“These extremists have manipulated social media to move from the margins to the mainstream,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, at New America this month. “The idea that Facebook and Google and Twitter can hover over the rest of us and that they bear no responsibility is just plain wrong.”
Social media platforms are private companies. They can regulate content and users how they see fit. Earlier this month, Facebook banned several far-right extremists for promoting violence and hate. Among them: conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, neo-Nazi Republican candidate Paul Nehlen and white nationalist British political operative Milo Yiannopoulos, who was so upset that he took to Gab, a social media platform popular with neo-Nazis, to promote civil war in America.
On Twitter, Trump raged about the Facebook bans.
“I am continuing to monitor the censorship of AMERICAN CITIZENS on social media platforms,” he wrote. “This is the United States of America — and we have what’s known as FREEDOM OF SPEECH! We are monitoring and watching, closely!!”
To reinforce his point, Trump retweeted Canadian white nationalist Lauren Southern and British fake news merchant Paul Joseph Watson, one of the extremists banned by Facebook. The First Amendment protects only against government censorship, not decisions made by social media companies ― a distinction seemingly lost on Trump.
Meanwhile, the trolls keep taking advantage of Twitter’s ineptitude or complicity. While I was writing this story, Cernovich used Twitter to accuse Vic Berger, a video producer and humorist who has taken to satirizing Cernovich after being harassed and slandered by the propagandist, of stalking children and trying to hurt Cernovich’s young daughter. He produced no evidence that this was true. But evidence doesn’t matter to Cernovich’s fans, some of whom responded to his Berger provocations with tweets about putting Berger in the hospital. After Berger reported Cernovich to Twitter, the company sent Berger an email about 16 hours later stating that Cernovich’s account had been suspended.
But Cernovich was not suspended, and he continued to tweet about Berger stalking children. Three days later, Twitter sent Berger a second email, again saying Cernovich’s account had been suspended. Cernovich, though, was not suspended this time, either, and Twitter allowed him to keep accusing Berger of criminal behavior without any evidence.
Twitter has been far less permissive with journalists and researchers who cover extremism. Twitter recently suspended Elizabeth King, who covers white nationalists for various publications, after she called Eoin Lenihan, a far-right harasser who works with Spicci and is now trying to pass himself off as an extremism expert, a “cunt” for disseminating false information about journalists that increases the risk of extremist violence against them. (Twitter has suspended Lenihan three times since last year, but he remains on the platform.) In April, Twitter locked Michael Edison Hayden, a Southern Poverty Law Center investigator, out of his account after he accurately tweeted about a white power symbol found at the scene of an arson attack on a famous civil rights training center. Twitter locked me out last year for tweeting a pro wrestling joke at alt-lite propagandist Will Chamberlain amid a Twitter-enabled harassment campaign directed at me that Chamberlain amplified.
That Twitter facilitates vast amounts of libel, harassment and threats is no secret. If the company were treated as a news publisher ― and Dorsey certainly makes decisions like one when, for example, he cites “newsworthiness” to justify leaving up Trump’s abusive tweets ― it would have been sued out of existence long ago. But Twitter gets to hover above the harm it helps cause because, like Facebook and other social media companies, it is immune from liability under federal law. Which helps Twitter’s bottom line. The company just had an impressive first quarter of 2019, raking in more ad revenue and users than expected and inking premium content video deals. If banning white nationalists would outrage Trump supporters, it might also chip away at Twitter’s business metrics.
When contacted for comment, Twitter spokeswoman Katie Rosborough refused to answer any of HuffPost’s specific questions about white nationalists and offered up only a boilerplate response.
“We are committed to combating abuse and improving the health of the public conversation,” Rosborough said. “As per our Hateful Conduct Policy, we prohibit behavior that targets individuals based on protected categories, including race, ethnicity, national origin or religious affiliation. We now take increasingly proactive action using our technology but always encourage account holders to report, block, and mute to protect their experience on the service.”
Almost two years after Twitter announced new rules to crack down on users associated with violent hate groups and abusive content, however, many prominent and known white nationalists and white nationalist groups operate openly on the platform. HuffPost identified more than 60 of them. We have listed them below. Many violate Twitter’s policies. Others have been banned but are still active. Some are violent. Others use Twitter to fuel stochastic terrorism by demonizing a group or a person who could then become a target for a fanatic. These are not anonymous Nazi trolls that a multibillion-dollar company can fool people into thinking it’s unable to catch. They are, by and large, some of the public leaders of an extremist movement predicated on violence.
Jack Dorsey gives them the run of the place.
WHITE NATIONALISTS ON TWITTER
Though these accounts are easily discoverable on Twitter, publishing their names could bring them more attention. For that reason, HuffPost is only publishing their user IDs, not the @ “handles” most commonly associated with Twitter accounts.
Since we began assembling this list last month, four of the 62 accounts have been suspended. Two were not suspended but appear to have self-deleted to evade oversight. We are leaving these accounts on the list because Twitter permitted the suspended users to repeatedly post extremist content before taking action and seemingly took no action against users that deactivated their accounts.
This list is far from comprehensive. We are excluding prominent anonymous white nationalists, who can have thousands of followers and go through dozens of accounts, and propagandists such as Cernovich and Jack Posobiec, who work with white nationalists. Nor are we including Islamophobes like Mekelburg and Pamela Geller, who do not identify as white nationalists but whose views often align with the ideology. The same holds for mainstream Republican pundits such as Ann Coulter and Tucker Carlson.
In the photos below, many white nationalists wear “Make America Great Again” caps or express support for Trump. During the 2016 election, white nationalists rallied around Trump en masse, accurately viewing the racist authoritarian as a means to seize a greater share of mainstream political power. Twitter was Trump’s medium of choice. So it was the medium of choice for far-right extremists. While their bigotry and propaganda is now echoed by much of the Republican base, several prominent white nationalists have since rejected Trump. He has done too much neoconservative saber-rattling for their taste or failed to deliver on issues like the border wall. Grotesquely, some now shun him for having too many close connections to Jews. But the damage these extremists ― and Twitter (and Trump) ― have done by spreading a message of hate and radicalization will linger for years.
Mike “Enoch” Peinovich => 985138702602133511
The podcast panjandrum of the alt-right, Mike Peinovich, a former libertarian who now enjoys sieg heiling at book burnings, has been a central figure in radicalizing young men to white nationalism through his “The Right Stuff” platform. Peinovich participated in the deadly white supremacist riot in Charlottesville and has worked closely with many other leading far-right figures, such as Andrew Anglin and Richard Spencer.
Andrew Anglin => 1071550279529705472
Andrew Anglin runs The Daily Stormer, the world’s biggest neo-Nazi publication. A criminal, slanderer and serial harasser who was involved in organizing the Charlottesville riot, Anglin claims to be living abroad in a secret location out of fear for his safety. He has branded himself the “most censored person on the internet,” but he isn’t censored on Twitter, despite being banned from the platform in 2015 for spreading racist lies. Anglin is currently using an anonymous “sock” account to promote his neo-Nazi site and harass people. He told HuffPost that he operates several other sock accounts. ”What was the point of GAB in the first place?” he said. “Twitter is LIT.”
Richard Spencer => 402181258
The closest thing to a figurehead in the alt-right movement, Richard Spencer has a more restrained presence on Twitter and knows how to tweet between the lines, sticking mainly to political commentary. For the past few years, however, Spencer has been in the middle of major white nationalist events that resulted in violence, including Charlottesville and a speech he gave in Gainesville, Florida, where one of his supporters tried to shoot a protester while two other Spencer fans urged on the shooter. One of the Spencer supporters, Colton Fears, who later pleaded guilty to the charge of accessory after the fact to attempted first-degree murder, spoke with HuffPost before the attempted murder. “Basically, I’m just fed up with the fact that I’m cis-gendered, I’m a white male, and I lean right, towards the Republican side,” Fears said, wearing a pin of the 3rd SS Panzer Division Totenkopf of the Waffen-SS. “And I get demonized if I don’t accept certain things.”
Jason Kessler => 467620549
This violent white nationalist and onetime Daily Caller writer organized the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville during which hundreds of racists and fascists rioted in the streets and attacked counter-protesters, with one of them murdering Heather Heyer. “Heather Heyer was a fat disgusting Communist,” Kessler tweeted at the time. “Communists have killed 94 million. Looks like it was payback time.” Twitter soon awarded Kessler a blue check mark to indicate his “verified” status on the platform. The designation, which most users understandably view as a status symbol, touched off a firestorm of criticism, after which Twitter announced it was suspending the verification program. But Twitter has secretly been verifying select users, including Dorsey’s parents (and, it would seem, this writer, who was given a blue check mark last summer after being threatened with violence on Twitter by Trump supporters).
Nick Fuentes=> 2442888666
Nick Fuentes is a popular coat-and-tie white nationalist and “Make America Great Again” propagandist with a big social media reach. He cut his teeth as a run-of-the-mill Trump cheerleader for Right Side Broadcasting Network, but made a splash when he called for the execution of CNN “globalists.” In 2017, clips of his racist rants behind the scenes were leaked on Twitter, and Fuentes split with RSBN after he attended the Unite the Right rally. He now makes a living demonizing immigrants, women and Jews on his YouTube show, ”America First,” and giving speeches at white nationalist gatherings.
Matt Parrott => 21626308
A longtime white nationalist organizer and leader, Matt Parrott co-founded the now-defunct Traditionalist Worker Party, a major neo-Nazi organization involved in violence in Charlottesville and other rallies around the country. Like Spencer, Parrott strives to approach far-right extremism from an intellectual standpoint and keeps it mostly buttoned up on Twitter. “I’m really thankful that Jack [Dorsey] lets me on his website,” he recently tweeted.
David Duke => 72931184
Although the former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard and convicted felon is approaching 70, Duke is still one of the most popular and influential figures in the modern white nationalist movement. While he has little to show for his years of anti-Semitic tirades, aside from a single term in the Louisiana House of Representatives and a daily radio program, he has successfully groomed a number of young people into a life of white supremacist activism. Duke was one of many well-known attendees at the Unite the Right rally in 2017.
Brad Griffin=> 1061127626725736448
A member of the League of the South, Griffin literally married into the movement in 2014 when he wed Renee Baum, daughter of the late Council of Conservative Citizens founder Gordon Baum. His white supremacist worldview stretches back even further to when he founded the hate site Occidental Dissent, where he decries “black-run Amerika” and praises the likes of Anders Breivik. Since then, Griffin has made a name for himself as one of the alt-right’s most-skilled doxers. He also organized the white supremacist rally in Shelbyville, Tennessee, in 2017, which attracted several hundred racists and fascists.
Patrick Casey => 854868563311636480
Casey got his start in the white power scene working for white nationalist media shop Red Ice under the pseudonym “Reinhard Wolff.” When Eli Mosley stepped down as the leader of the hate group Identity Evropa in late 2017, Casey shed his anonymity before taking the reins and attempting to steer the group away from its toxic “alt-right” label. It didn’t work. When IE’s Discord chats were leaked to the public early this year, revealing the type of racism and anti-Semitism Casey hoped to keep private, he once again did damage control by giving IE an even more banal name: the “American Identity Movement.”
Stefan Molyneux => 313038011
A popular YouTube crank and alleged cult leader, Molyneux has made a career out of howling about the injustices of feminism and government handouts before his hundreds of thousands of followers. His favorite pastime by far, however, is dusting off discredited race science and insisting to listeners that black and Hispanic people have lower average IQs than whites. Molyneux has been openly extolling the virtues of white nationalism since he visited Poland to make a documentary last year. In February, Molyneux tweeted, “When it came to slavery, blacks were the [drug] dealers. Whites were the users.” Donald Trump Jr. is a Molyneux fan and retweeted a video the white nationalist made with Mike Cernovich to spread the Pizzagate conspiracy theory. This month, Trump Jr. promoted Molyneux again on Twitter.
Kevin MacDonald => 87229781
The alt-right’s favorite academic, this retired California State University, Long Beach, professor authored an infamous book that posits that Jews undermine white societies as part of a group evolutionary strategy. MacDonald’s writing has brought untold numbers of people to the white nationalist cause. He currently edits The Occidental Quarterly, a publication of the Charles Martel Society, and rants about “white genocide” on popular white nationalist podcasts.
Just the fact that Trump Jr. retweeted him should bring a lot of attention to Kevin MacDonald’s work. Gabriel Sohier Chaput, a Canadian neo-Nazi contributor to The Daily Stormer
MacDonald is all but unknown outside far-right extremist circles, which is why it was shocking to see Trump Jr. promote the anti-Semite on Twitter in August 2016, a decision that delighted people like Gabriel Sohier Chaput, a Canadian neo-Nazi contributor to The Daily Stormer. “Just the fact that Trump Jr. retweeted him should bring a lot of attention to Kevin MacDonald’s work,” wrote Chaput, who supports the ultra-violent neo-Nazi terrorist organization Atomwaffen.
James Edwards => 763938568502775808
A neo-Confederate white nationalist radio host, James Edwards has written that for African Americans, “slavery is the greatest thing that ever happened to them.” In 2016, Edwards, who has given speeches at white nationalist conferences, sued The Detroit News over a column labeling him a Klan “leader.” A Republican-appointed judge rejected Edwards’ defamation claim, writing that Edwards “espoused views consistent with those associated with the Klan and… repeatedly and publicly embraced several individuals who are strongly associated with the Klan.” That same year, Trump Jr. appeared on Edwards’ radio show to discuss how the Trump campaign was changing the Republican Party. “It’s not a campaign anymore, it’s a movement,” Trump Jr. said. A few months later, Eric Trump went on Edwards’ show.
Steve King => 48117116
Possibly America’s most racist sitting congressman, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) has spent years demeaning immigrants and people of color. Some of the lowlights that will eventually grace his obituary include claiming that some immigrant Dreamers developed ”calves the size of cantaloupes” from hauling drugs across the border, keeping a miniature Confederate flag at his desk (Iowa fought for the Union), questioning if any racial “subgroup” besides white people contributed to civilization, and wondering aloud why terms like “white nationalist” and “white supremacist” are so offensive. King has retweeted prominent neo-Nazis and white nationalists on several occasions. In October 2017, Trump Jr. went pheasant hunting with King and killed several birds, which pleased King. “[T]he sky was so full of feathers that one could be convinced that the angels were having pillow fights,” the Republican congressman said.
Faith Goldy => 83748727
In 2017, far-right activist Faith Goldy was fired from Rebel Media after attending the Unite the Right rally and making a friendly guest appearance on a podcast hosted by neo-Nazi Robert “Azzmador” Ray, a violent criminal associate of Andrew Anglin. Goldy has made appearances on other white nationalist shows since then, including “Red Ice TV” and Stefan Molyneux’s show. She has repeated and defended the ”14 Words,” a popular white supremacist slogan coined by a neo-Nazi terrorist. Her ultimately failed run for mayor of Toronto was promoted by Rep. Steve King.
Jean-François Gariépy => 274567177
A Canadian YouTube streamer in the mold of fellow white nationalist Stefan Molyneux, Gariépy is preoccupied with race and IQ studies. This former Duke University neuroscience researcher co-hosted the alt-right “Bloodsports” debates and now hosts his own show, where he often interviews prominent white supremacists such as Richard Spencer, Mike Enoch, David Duke and Jared Taylor. More disturbing, however, are the allegations against Gariépy raised in court filings. In a Texas guardianship case, Gariépy was accused of luring and attempting to impregnate a developmentally disabled 19-year-old while still married to his ex-wife, who claimed in a separate child-custody case in North Carolina that Gariépy tried to kidnap their infant child. Gariépy has denied any wrongdoing but was unsuccessful in his attempt to block the guardianship application of the teenager’s parents after claiming, falsely, that the woman was his pregnant fiancée. Meanwhile, Gariépy’s ex-wife won sole custody of their child.
Lana Lokteff => 2349347329
The co-founder of the disturbingly popular Red Ice media network, Lokteff uses her YouTube and Twitter platforms to denounce immigration and depictions of interracial couples in advertisements, which she calls “more devious than blatant in-your-face mass murdering.” On her show, Lokteff has interviewed a number of conspiracy theorists, white supremacists and other fringe figures. A speaker at the racist Identitarian Ideas IX conference in Stockholm, Lokteff bragged that it was “women that got Hitler elected.”
Henrik Palmgren=> 2231109295
Lana Lokteff’s husband, Henrik, co-founded Red Ice and is the most frequent host of its flagship series “Red Ice TV.” Palmgren shares his wife’s hatred of Jews, Muslims and non-whites, as well as her penchant for conspiracy theories. Palmgren also spoke at Identitarian Ideas IX, where he HERE ; The Ultimate Survival Food: The Lost Ways