The alt-right threw a fit after Twitter unverified its top personalities. Now they’re regrouping.
Tim “Baked Alaska” Gionet spent Thursday night going back to the white nationalist drawing board... almost literally.
The tiki torch-wielding former BuzzFeed editor appears to be the only alt-right figure Twitter permanently banned from its site Wednesday while removing its verified check mark from several other white nationalist and far-right users’ accounts.
After losing his 200,000+ Twitter followers and posting an almost nine-hour YouTube rant that spanned several stages of mourning, Baked Alaska was on the alt-right social media site Gab trying to rebuild relationships with the hardline white nationalist community he’d distanced himself from after the violent white nationalist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August.
Some of Gionet’s devout racist Gab followers weren’t ready to welcome back the prodigal troll.
Gionet was far from alone in complaining about Twitter Thursday.
Alt-right.com editor Richard Spencer, conservative pundit Laura Loomer, League of the South leader Michael Hill, former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke, and a host of other white nationalist or far right figures lost their blue check verification as well.
The alt-right crackdown came less than a week after Twitter verified and then quickly unverified the account of Charlottesville “Unite the Right” organizer Jason Kessler.
None of this was a coincidence, according to the Anti-Defamation League, which hosted some of the tech industry’s most powerful companies at its “Never Is Now” anti-hate speech summit in San Francisco on Monday.
Reps from Twitter joined others from Facebook, Google, Reddit and several more tech giants at the anti-cyber hate event, three days before Twitter’s mass unverification process took place.
“Twitter just wanted to remove what most people interpret as a seal of approval from these accounts,” Oren Segal, director of the ADL’s Center on Extremism told said Thursday. “These companies have to decide for themselves what their role is in how people are going to use and support their services.”
Unverified but not banned?
Twitter stopped short of kicking alt-right figures off its site the way it did to radical Islamic extremists back in November of 2015 after an ISIS terror attack in Paris.
The site booted about 235,000 radical Islamic terror-supporting users from November 2015 to August 2016 while consulting with U.S. national and cyber security intel forces on how to keep pro-terrorism users from spreading terror propaganda on its servers.
Go Daddy and other internet service providers made unprecedented moves to remove pro-white supremacist website DailyStormer from their servers after Heather Heyer was killed in Charlottesville on Aug. 12.
The DailyStormer was forced onto the dark web after its editor, Andrew Anglin, posted a hate-filled tirade attacking Heyer shortly after she was mowed down by white nationalist demonstrator James Alex Fields Jr., who is associated with Vanguard America.
Gionet and Richard Spencer were marching with other white nationalists in Charlottesville the day Heyer was killed.
Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project, says Twitter’s blue check purge of the alt-right isn’t enough.
“If users are promoting hate or inciting harassment of others, they shouldn’t just lose their blue checkmarks,” Beirich said via email. “Twitter will remain a safe space for serial harassers, conspiracy theorists, and white nationalists to spread their message unless the company wants it to change.”
Not all accounts associated with white nationalism were unverified Wednesday.
Where do they go now?
ISIS-sympathizers migrated to Telegram after Twitter gave them the boot in 2016. Baked Alaska and and other alt-right figures similarly directed their users to follow them on Gab.
A source told Mic that many alt-right followers are also still active and organizing on the video game messaging app Discord, even after that company shut down a popular alt-right server used to help plan the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally.
Alt-right Discord users are strongly divided about how to proceed with their movement post-Charlottesville.
“It’s a little bit of a pissing match about optics and dressing up like Nazis vs. red-pilling normies online,” SPLC Intelligence Project representative Alex Amend said. “They’re still there and in so many places. It’s going to be a daily fight. For Twitter it’s different. They could simply ban these people, but they don’t.”
The alt-right also is promoting its crowdfunding site Hatreon and Bitcoin accounts after Patreon, PayPal, GoFundMe and other mainstream money-raising sites banned alt-right leaders throughout 2017, according to the SPLC.
All this appears to translate into a mainstreaming net loss for the pro-Trump, alt-right movement credited with helping president Trump win the 2016 election, even if Twitter’s handling of hate speech seems inconsistent and unpredictable, according to Segal.
“We’re not trying to change freedom of speech here, but these are private companies,” Segal said. “So long as they are private, they are able to make decisions as to how they want their platforms to look.”