Twitter reinstates racist leader's account

It's an odd move given an apparent crackdown on hate just weeks earlier.

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REUTERS/Spencer Selvidge
REUTERS/Spencer Selvidge

Twitter was supposed to have cracked down on "alt-right" racism back in mid-November, but it appears to be having second thoughts. The social network has reinstated the account of Richard B. Spencer, the white nationalist leader whose groups were an important part of the crackdown. He'd originally been banned based on Twitter rules barring "violent threats, harassment, hateful conduct and multiple account abuse," although there weren't clear examples of violations at the time.

A Twitter spokesperson tells us that it restored Spencer's account because it allows people to reinstate one account when they've been banned for creating "multiple accounts with overlapping uses." Notably, it also points to a BuzzFeed reporter's tweet arguing that Spencer isn't abusive on Twitter like many of those who share his racist beliefs. He's unlikely to get his wish of reinstating other accounts, however. Twitter has shared the email it sent to Spencer, and it's adamant that his extra accounts "will remain suspended." You can read both statements below.

While this helps clarify what prompted Twitter to ban Spencer and why he's back, it's not going to make people happy. Many had assumed that Twitter was banning Spencer and his organizations based on his hateful ideas and ability to foster abuse by proxy, not because he had multiple accounts. The move isn't going to please users (or potential buyers) concerned that Twitter isn't doing enough to curb systemic harassment that scares some away from the service.

"Our rules explicitly prohibit creating multiple accounts with overlapping uses. When we temporarily suspend multiple accounts for this violation, the account owner can designate one account for reinstatement."

Email to Spencer:

"Hello,

As referenced in our November 18, 2016 communication, creating serial and/or multiple accounts with overlapping use is a violation of the Twitter Rules (https://twitter.com/rules).

Please select one account for restoration; the others will remain suspended. This account will need to comply fully with the Twitter Rules (https://twitter.com/rules). Please reply to this email with the username of the account you would like reinstated and we will make sure to answer your request in a timely manner.

Thanks,

Twitter"

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