Twitter, YouTube Pull No Punches With David Duke
As David Duke remains in the news, a few social media powerhouses made it clearer that his presence on their platforms may not be viable for long.
Some days ago, I was notified by Twitter for the third time this month that Duke had been targeted by the company for violating its policies against hateful conduct. I was informed of this because I had reported him to Twitter for a variety of antisemitic tweets — something I’ve done intermittently in the past. This time, however, I am noticing a difference. Twitter is getting stricter about hate speech, and even public figures are not immune to its decisions.
Meanwhile, a quick search for David Duke’s name on YouTube on October 19 resulted in plenty of videos from various news outlets featuring him — but his actual channel could not be found. A separate search produced a playlist for “David Duke,” housing a number of his videos; yet its name was unclickable, indicating the playlist could be accessed but not the channel.
This is an intriguing development, especially given the fact that YouTube earlier this year reportedly made moves, including via the development of a tweaked policy on hate speech, to address bigotry on the platform more thoroughly. Just this month, the site removed white supremacist channel Red Ice TV, which had more than 300,000 subscribers. And now it appears that YouTube is lessening the impact of perhaps the United States’ most high-profile antisemite and racist — Duke.
When one considers the fact that Duke is idolized by thousands of neo-Nazis worldwide and has more than 50,000 followers on Twitter, this is a huge step indeed.
Is it, however, enough? It’s peculiar that YouTube would allow his videos to remain viewable while restricting access to his channel. This begs the question as to why the platform would allow his content to be seen at all. If he is considered persona non grata on the site, there’s no reason whatsoever for keeping his screeds online.
Then we come to Twitter. At press time, Duke hadn’t tweeted anything for at least a couple of days — possibly a sign that he has been blocked from doing so for a specific period of time. If that’s the case, and Twitter has repeatedly sanctioned him, he’s a repeat hate speech offender and should not be allowed on the site. Still, his account remains. Isn’t this enough to warrant Twitter deactivating it entirely?
I’ve previously written about the need to remove hate-filled social media accounts such as Hamas’ — and Duke’s situation is similar. The Red Ice deactivation is a good sign of things to come, but it’s not enough. YouTube and Twitter’s actions to combat intolerance shouldn’t be a trickle-down initiative. Instead, it must be proactive, quick, and a deterrent to other malfeasants. Prejudice doesn’t go away if it’s plucked out bit by bit. It grows and spreads. On popular platforms such as YouTube and Twitter, this is a particular concern.
I’d like to see the trend toward nullifying such accounts go further to mitigate bigotry. While the process may be slow right now, I believe it’s just getting in gear. And you never know what else the future will bring.
If it’s David Duke being off YouTube and Twitter for good, that can’t be a bad thing.
Simon Hardy Butler is a writer and editor living in New York City. During his career, he has written for publications ranging from Zagat to Adweek. Currently, he is a columnist for The Jewish Advocate. His views and opinions are his own.