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Twitter banned the Proud Boys, but they’re still there. Under Elon Musk, there could be more

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On April 26, a five-month previous Twitter account with the deal with @LegacyChaser369 pinned a tweet to its profile that started: “The Proud Boys are back on Twitter! #NewProfilePic #POYB #Westisthebest #Uhuru #maga”

The pinned tweet, which sits atop every other posts, was virtually a glossary for the language of the extremist avenue gang generally known as the Proud Boys. But when the insider phrases weren’t clear sufficient, there was the banner picture: A bunch of Proud Boys holding their fingers in sideways “OK” indicators, a identified rallying image for white supremacy.

Twitter, citing its coverage in opposition to violent organizations, had completely banned the Proud Boys and its founder in 2018. However @LegacyChaser369’s profile, together with a minimum of 30 others that contained apparent Proud Boys messaging, had been lively till final week. When these accounts had been adopted, the service’s algorithm even “recommended” different comparable accounts to comply with.

After U.S. TODAY inquired in regards to the accounts, Twitter eliminated almost all of them for violating its guidelines.

“In 2018, we permanently suspended accounts affiliated with the Proud Boys organization. In line with our violent organizations policy, when we identify or become aware of accounts affiliated with this or other designated organizations, we immediately and permanently suspend the accounts,” the corporate stated in an announcement.

Twitter says it makes use of “automated tooling and manual assessments” to take away accounts violating its guidelines.

However the presence of dozens of Proud Boys accounts—on the identical time the group’s leaders are going through federal costs of seditious conspiracy within the Jan. 6 riot—is the most recent illustration of how extremist groups can generally unfold their message with impunity, regardless of social media corporations’ guarantees on the contrary.

Most of the accounts might be discovered by a easy phrase search, as a result of they used “Proud Boys” of their Twitter bio or username, elevating questions on how successfully the corporate enforces its guidelines on hate speech and extremism.

“I don’t think that Twitter is a platform that is seriously interested in banning extremists and bad actors, even when they go out of their way to make it explicit about who they are and what they’re about,” stated Bridget Todd, a author and host of the podcast “There are No Girls on the Internet.” “If I were running Twitter, I would consider that a failure on my part, to create a platform that, even at a very base level, in the most basic ways, is a safe place to be.”

Proud Boys hope Elon Musk will allow them to return to Twitter

For years, extremist teams just like the Proud Boys overtly organized on mainstream social media platforms. Social media corporations got here below rising strain to restrict hate speech and extremism as rising proof confirmed the platforms had been getting used to radicalize folks.

After being banned from Twitter and Fb, the Proud Boys decamped to the encrypted messaging app Telegram and different smaller apps with fewer restrictions.

However when Elon Musk introduced earlier this 12 months he needed to purchase Twitter, the Proud Boys and different extremist teams expressed hope that he’ll permit them again on the platform. Musk, who has 100 million Twitter followers, says he helps extra unbridled expression on Twitter. He additionally says the social media firm has gone too far in policing the speech of customers.

Telegram accounts related to the Proud Boys celebrated the Musk deal, which is but to be finalized, posting memes that includes the Tesla billionaire, one among which learn “ELON MUSK: Proud Boy of the week.”

Musk agreed to purchase Twitter for $44 billion in April however has expressed reservations in regards to the deal, fueling hypothesis he might not full the acquisition.

Amongst different issues, Musk desires to abolish everlasting suspensions in opposition to customers together with former President Trump. Twitter co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey has publicly agreed with Musk although each say Twitter ought to nonetheless prohibit unlawful conduct and spam.

“Perma bans just fundamentally undermine trust in Twitter as a town square where everyone can voice their opinion,” Musk stated at a convention in May when requested if he would reverse the choice to oust former President Trump from Twitter.

Musk didn’t reply to a tweet in search of remark for this story.

U.S. TODAY tried to contact the entire Proud Boy-affiliated accounts on Twitter. Just a few accounts responded saying they had been unapologetic Proud Boys. Most didn’t reply.

Whether or not he reverses the Twitter ban on extremists just like the Proud Boys, the group has been utilizing the platform anyway. Cyabra, a disinformation monitoring platform, discovered 7,448 profiles utilizing hashtags and phrases linked to the Proud Boys between June 2021 and June 2022.

The nonprofit analysis group Advance Democracy discovered that many makes use of of the Proud Boy hashtags during the last 12 months had been to denounce reasonably than promote the group.

Nonetheless, supporters of the Proud Boys weren’t arduous to seek out on Twitter.

Why did not Twitter spot the Proud Boys accounts?

In mid-April, U.S. TODAY recognized 45 Twitter accounts supporting the Proud Boys.

Some had “Proud Boy” of their bios. Others used the time period ProudBoy of their Twitter deal with. Dozens extra sported imagery of the Proud Boys brand, or used the hashtags #Uhuru (used to mock the thought of slavery reparations), #POYB (insiders say “Proud of your boy”) and others. The accounts usually tweeted hateful content material mocking the LGBTQ neighborhood, the Hispanic neighborhood and the Jewish neighborhood.

Over the following two months, Twitter eliminated 13 of these accounts, however the remaining remained. When U.S. TODAY inquired in regards to the accounts, Twitter eliminated almost all of them for violating its guidelines.

Between January and June 2021, Twitter says it suspended 44,974 accounts below its violent organizations coverage, which encompasses Proud Boys and dozens of different actions and teams.

“The conduct these groups engage in and/or promote jeopardizes the well-being of those targeted, and compromises the safety of our service,” the corporate instructed U.S. TODAY in an announcement.

Twitter makes use of a mixture of synthetic intelligence and human moderation to detect accounts that violate its guidelines. It didn’t say why it allowed dozens of accounts with “Proud Boy” within the bio, had “Proud Boy” as a part of the account’s Twitter deal with or used hashtags related to the Proud Boys.

“Knowing what is on their platform is Twitter’s business model. What they are selling is knowledge of what is happening on their platform,” stated Jared Holt, resident fellow at Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. “So this idea that, you know, Twitter can’t possibly know this is happening, or that this is an unreasonable ask, really strikes me as a cop out.”

U.S. TODAY discovered the Proud Boys account by following one account, then taking a look at who that account was retweeting and who they had been following. Inside minutes, anyone with a fundamental information of the Proud Boys can begin discovering accounts selling the group.

After following accounts selling the Proud Boys, Twitter additionally really useful comparable accounts and really useful teams adjoining to the Proud Boys, like an account linked to the motion “White Lives Matter.”

“I think the fact that people could have ‘Proud Boy’ in their bio, flaunting their affiliation with a violent extremist group, and still be welcomed on the platform really tells you all you need to know,” Todd stated. “Twitter is just an incredibly powerful, moneyed company. You don’t work at Twitter, and yet you had to do the work of being like: ‘Hey, these guys are explicitly violent extremists, maybe they should get off the platform.’ If you can do it, they can do it.”

Twitter holds firm on completing Musk buyout: board chairman

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Twitter banned the Proud Boys, however they’re nonetheless there. Below Elon Musk, there might be extra (2022, July 5)
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