Twitter execs are hesitant to use its algorithmic content filters to automatically ban white nationalists and neo-Nazis from the platform because too many Republican politicians would be kicked off the site in the process, Motherboard reports.
According to sources who attended an all-hands meeting for Twitter staff held in March, one employee asked why the micro-blogging site wasn’t using its AI to scrub white nationalists from the site with the same dedication and efficiency they did for accounts pushing Islamic State propaganda. A Twitter executive and tech employee reportedly responded by explaining too many Republican politicians would be kicked off the platform if they purged white nationalists.
The exec explained that because of Twitter algorithms, there are accounts that will be purged as collateral damage once certain groups are targeted. From Motherboard:
With every sort of content filter, there is a tradeoff, he explained. When a platform aggressively enforces against ISIS content, for instance, it can also flag innocent accounts as well, such as Arabic language broadcasters. Society, in general, accepts the benefit of banning ISIS for inconveniencing some others, he said.
In separate discussions verified by Motherboard, that employee said Twitter hasn’t taken the same aggressive approach to white supremacist content because the collateral accounts that are impacted can, in some instances, be Republican politicians.
The employee explained that GOP accounts getting swept up in a purge of neo-Nazis by the algorithm isn’t something Twitter execs think the public would accept. Under such a system, someone like Rep. Steve King (R-IA) could get purged from Twitter after quote-tweeting white supremacist propaganda and adding his own bigoted commentary, except apparently Twitter management doesn’t want to deal with the pushback from King’s base. Of course, the more obvious explanation would be that the algorithm can’t differentiate between the racist viewpoints of certain members of the GOP and someone like David Duke.
A Twitter rep told Motherboard that this lenient approach towards neo-Nazis on the platform “is not [an] accurate characterization of our policies or enforcement—on any level.” Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has been frustratingly evasive on why his site allows white nationalists to spread propaganda and harass people unabated, other than promising that Twitter’s AI will be honed to target abusive accounts during his recent TED appearance in Vancouver. During that conference Dorsey also claimed Twitter “policies around violent extremist groups” but has yet to elaborate on what they actually are.