Twitter this weekend reinstated the account of a prominent white nationalist leader who takes credit for coining the term “alt-right” after briefly suspending him.
“I’m back,” Richard Spencer crowed to his almost 25,000 followers on Saturday, along with a clip of Arnold Schwarzenneger’s “Terminator” mussing his hair.
Spencer’s account, as well as those of hundreds of other avowed white nationalists, was suspended on Nov. 15, the same day that Twitter announced a number of new anti-harassment measures meant to curb the flood of anti-Semitic, racist and misogynist abuse that inundated the platform during the 2016 presidential race.
Yet according to Twitter, Spencer, who most recently drew headlines for hosting a post-election convention in which attendees “hailed” the victory of Donald Trump and made Nazi salutes, was suspended simply because he had too many accounts.
“Our rules explicitly prohibit creating multiple accounts with overlapping uses,” a Twitter spokesperson told TPM in a Monday email. “When we temporarily suspend multiple accounts for this violation, the account owner can designate one account for reinstatement.”
The spokesperson pointed to a tweet from BuzzFeed reporter Rosie Gray noting that though much of the alt-right is “abusive” on Twitter, Spencer personally is not.
This is a real slippery slope btw. A lot of the alt-right are abusive on Twitter, but Spencer for example is not.
— Rosie Gray (@RosieGray) November 16, 2016
Another prominent white nationalist who boosted the so-called “alt-right” movement, Breitbart editor Milo Yianoppolous, had been permanently banned from the social media platform for leading a targeted harassment campaign against black actress Leslie Jones. Spencer avoids this sort of pointed abuse, instead using his account to share commentary on news reports as well as articles that flatter his “movement.”
Spencer’s white nationalist views are quite public, however. At the same post-election conference, which was organized by his group the National Policy Institute, Spencer railed against Jews and praised white people as “the children of the sun.”
In addition to his @RichardBSpencer account, Spencer also runs accounts for the National Policy Institute, the NPI’s publishing arm, Washington Summit Publishers, its website Radix Journal, and @_AltRight_.
While Spencer claimed shortly after rejoining the site that he would be working to reinstate those other accounts, a Twitter spokesperson said he would not be permitted to do so.
I worked on getting my personal reinstated first. Next will be Radix, NPI, _AltRight_, and WSP.
— Richard 🐸 Spencer (@RichardBSpencer) December 11, 2016
The company sent TPM a copy of the email it sent to Spencer informing him that his personal account had been reinstated and warning that “the others will remain suspended:”
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.
The company also restored Spencer’s verified status. Twitter adds a small check mark next to the handles of certain users, particularly those with large public followings or members of the media, to verify their identity.
The verification badge also amplifies the profile of users, granting them an influx of new followers. Other white nationalists, like Traditionalist Worker Party chairman Matthew Heimbach, are also verified by the site.
To explain why Spencer’s account was re-verified, a spokesperson pointed TPM to the company’s verification support page, which says that the verification badge “does not imply an endorsement by Twitter.”