In 1999, the former great wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke, predicted that the Internet would help spawn a “white revolution to come”.
The news media did not give him friendly coverage, he wrote on his website, but on the internet he was able to reach his supporters directly, triggering a “chain reaction of racial enlightenment.”
Over the next 20 years, Duke, one of America’s most notorious hate group leaders, had carte blanche to spread his message of white supremacy on one Internet platform after another.
Now, after years of protests and a wave of white supremacist terrorist attacks around the world, social media companies are belatedly limiting Duke’s reach. Twitter said on Friday it had permanently suspended its account, citing “repeated violations of Twitter’s rules for hateful conduct.” YouTube banned his account in June. Facebook banned Duke in 2018, the company said, more than a year after participating in the violent white supremacist protest in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Twitter’s decision to permanently ban Duke came more than a decade after Duke created his account in 2009, and more than eight years after he began posting regularly, in 2012. He has tweeted tens of thousands of times, often participating in national events and sharing white supremacist and anti-Semitic plots. He had more than 50,000 subscribers when his account was permanently suspended.
Duke, who was a neo-Nazi in college, led a Ku Klux Klan group and later founded an organization called the “National Association for the Advancement of Whites.” He was elected to the Louisiana state legislature in 1989. Two years later, when he ran for governor of Louisiana, he won more than half of the white vote.
Advocacy groups and nonprofits that monitor racist extremists have been protesting for years Twitter’s decision to allow Duke and other leaders of hate groups to use their advocacy platform.
“The muted efforts of social media giants to tackle racial violence and hate crimes perpetrated through their platforms have had dire consequences,” said Henry Fernandez, senior anti-hate researcher at the Center for American Progress , in a statement, citing: “White nationalist rhetoric fueled on social media leading to real-world violence, including mass murders in El Paso, Texas; Gilroy, California; and, Christchurch, New Zealand ”.
Activists at Change the Terms, a coalition of dozens of civil rights groups and other nonprofits, have spent the past two years trying to get tech companies to remove white nationalists from their homes. platforms, including asking Twitter to directly delete Duke’s account, both in “Private meetings with Twitter executives” and during public events, Fernandez said.
“These discussions were initially like banging your head against a brick wall,” he said, but “today is a milestone”.
Duke’s latest Twitter rule violation, the one that prompted his suspension from Twitter, was a “harmful link,” the company said. It would not provide further details on the content of the link but noted that its policy of suspending accounts for sharing links to unsafe content was updated in March.
Duke’s latest tweet contained a link to an interview he conducted with a Holocaust denier, BBC News reported.
“David Duke is just the start, but there are still many more,” Keegan Hankes of the Southern Poverty Law Center said in a statement.
Richard Spencer, another white nationalist and one of the organizers of the Charlottesville rally in 2017, is still on Twitter, activists noted.