Social media giants like Facebook and Twitter have been hard at work finding a balance between free speech and the rampant toxicity that infects social media platforms. But Twitter angered many people with its most recent judgment call, announcing that a speech by the leader of the Nation of Islam—in which he apparently compared people of the Jewish faith to termites—didn’t violate its hate speech policy.
A Twitter spokesperson told BuzzFeed this week that Louis Farrakhan’s tweet wouldn’t bring about disciplining, as new rules on dehumanizing language have not yet taken effect. (It remains unclear when they will.) People were quick to call the move hypocritical, considering how many accounts have been suspended with little explanation.
“I’m not an anti-Semite. I’m anti-Termite,” Farrakhan tweeted on Tuesday, with a link to his speech.
The Chicago minister spoke in Detroit this week to mark the 23rd anniversary of the Million Man March. In his speech, he referenced the white people who have uplifted his profile by way of public disdain for his work. After this “anti-termite” line, he added: “I don’t know nothing about hating somebody because of their religious preference.” (Farrakhan has a long history of statements that have been criticized for being anti-Semitic.)
Twitter’s policies and, perhaps more importantly, how it enforces them, have received increasing scrutiny in recent months. Those same months have seen a slew of accounts banned or unverified, from Alex Jones’ Infowars to the Anti-Media project. Depending on your choice of a news outlet, you might have seen reports on a wave of right– or left-leaning political accounts being banned.
The explanation for Twitter’s apparent lack of concern when it comes to Farrakhan’s statements was quickly condemned by people across the web. Many conservatives questioned why an account run by right-wing pundit Bruce Carroll, @GayPatriot, was banned earlier this week for “hateful conduct.”
— Joe (@JoeC1776) October 17, 2018
People immediately began demanding an explanation from Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey. Even Chelsea Clinton was upset. “Comparing Jews to termites is anti-Semitic, wrong and dangerous,” she tweeted. “For everyone who rightly condemned President Trump’s rhetoric when he spoke about immigrants ‘infesting our country,’ this rhetoric should be equally unacceptable to you.”
Comparing Jews to termites is anti-Semitic, wrong and dangerous. The responsive laughter makes my skin crawl. For everyone who rightly condemned President Trump’s rhetoric when he spoke about immigrants “infesting our country,” this rhetoric should be equally unacceptable to you: https://t.co/EvFp4ULugm
— Chelsea Clinton (@ChelseaClinton) October 17, 2018
Cameron Gray of NRA TV posted a short interview he conducted with Carroll. Twitter has suspended his accounts several times before, but Carroll said he has no idea what reason Twitter has for outright banning him.
I like his humor, appreciate his insight. He's not just politics, never has been. It's about free speech, open forum of ideas. Sharing ideas is how we learn, become better as a people. Gay Patriot is certainly NOT one of the haters. Hoping lifetime ban is lifted and soon!
— тαтנαηα 👻 (@AuseklisTK) October 15, 2018
Excellent interview! Bruce is the best part of twitter. #FreeGayPatriot
— Bossy the one with the Chicago accent (@alpha_Lady_pi) October 16, 2018
Carroll is back on Twitter under a different name, according to the interview. Look for @BruceTheGay if you are missing @GayPatriots tweets. As for Farrakhan, he may fare differently once the “policy on dehumanizing language” goes into effect.