Twitter briefly suspends David Duke

Jack Dorsey: Twitter shows best and worst of democracy
Jack Dorsey: Twitter shows best and worst of democracy

Twitter briefly suspended David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan leader, on Monday.

For a few hours Monday morning, users who tried viewing Duke's tweets saw a message that the account was suspended. The company reinstated the account, and Duke tweeted that he didn't know why he had been suspended.

In recent months, Twitter has doubled down on policing abuse, harassment, and hate speech on its platform.

Last week, the company added an automated system for banning users who violate its terms of service, and implemented new tools for individuals to be able to mute accounts.

In a statement to CNNTech, a Twitter spokeswoman said the company regularly reviews accounts and will take action -- like suspending them -- if the account violates Twitter's rules.

"If an account is found to have been suspended in error, we immediately restore it and notify the owner of our mistake," the company said.

Twitter previously banned white nationalist Richard Spencer, though his account was reinstated. Last year, the social network permanently banned Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos after he instigated a torrent of harassment at actress Leslie Jones.

Critics say Twitter isn't doing enough to prevent harassment and bullying on its platform, and the company is working to change that. For instance, during the 2016 presidential election, anti-Semitic attacks on Twitter users increased. In October, the Anti-Defamation League found almost 20,000 of those tweets targeted 800 journalists.

It's unclear what prompted the social network to shut down Duke's account, but he has previously tweeted anti-Semitic and racist comments. Twitter's safety rules say "hateful conduct" is not allowed. Prior to the suspension, he had over 30,000 followers. After being reinstated, he had just over 100 followers. It took several hours for the follower count to reach the original level.

"I can make no sense why people lose their accounts and get them reinstated," Heidi Beirich, director of Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project, said. "I feel like if Twitter wants to get serious about reigning in hate speech, there's no reason for a David Duke or a Richard Spencer to be on the platform."

The SPLC tracks hate speech on Twitter, and when Twitter banned some white nationalist accounts in November, the organization highlighted numerous examples of extremist accounts that were still active on the site.

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