Explained: Who is David Duke, former KKK leader banned by Twitter?
David Duke, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), was permanently banned by Twitter for violating the social media platform’s rules that forbid hate speech. The platform changed its content policy in March, as per which users are not allowed to share content that is hateful. According to the BBC, Duke’s last tweet linked to an interview with Holocaust denier Germar Rudolf. Duke was previously banned by YouTube in June.
Twitter is not alone in reacting to hate speech. Last month, another social networking website, Reddit, updated its hate speech policy in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests after which many Redditors called into question the website’s commitment to standing up against hate and supporting black lives. As a result of this, Reddit banned one of its largest pro-Trump subreddits (a community forum) called “r/The_Donald”, which had over 750,000 members.
Duke, leader of the white supremacist KKK from 1974-1978, is one of the most recognisable white supremacists and anti-semites, who built an international reputation for himself as the “American face of white nationalism and pseudo-academic anti-Semitism”, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
“In his various incarnations, Duke has been a neo-Nazi, a major Klan leader, a slick far-right politician and — most recently — a professional lecturer and author traveling the world to warn of a global Jewish conspiracy and seek the separation of the races,” SPLC states.
In 1991, Duke stood a chance of being elected as the Governor of Louisiana against Democratic candidate Edwin Edwards, but lost even though he received more than half of the white vote. According to a 1991 report published in The New York Times, Duke sold Nazi literature from his legislative office in 1989.
In a 1970 article published in The Racialist, Duke wrote, “Racial idealism, or racialism, is the idea that a nation’s greatest resource is the quality of its people. It means examining all questions of government on the basis of whether the proposed measure is good or bad for our race… Neither Communism, Capitalism, nor any other materialistic doctrine can save our race; our only racial salvation lies in a White racial alliance uniting our people with the common cause of racial idealism.”
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What has been the reaction to Twitter’s decision?
News reports point out that anti-hate activists have welcomed this decision as they have been protesting against Twitter allowing Duke and other such leaders to use the platform for advocacy.
In a statement, the Center for American Progress (CAP) said, “We look forward to Twitter’s continued work to remove hate from their platform. Indeed, other organisers of the violent racism at Charlottesville, such as Richard Spencer, are still on Twitter. But today is an important step and we commend Twitter for taking it.”
While many users on Twitter have welcomed the company’s decision, some also noted the presence of other figures deemed problematic by them, including US President Donald Trump and television presenter Tucker Carlson, who hosts a nightly political talk show on Fox News.
In a Tweet Duke posted on July 8, he said, “Trump and Tucker is the only way to stop the commie Bolsheviks! It is the only path to beat them! #TrumpTucker 2020.”
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There is no precise and exact definition of hate speech, but it is broadly understood as speech or content that calls for violence against people, or is threatening to them, and is based on their race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation. The Cambridge Dictionary defines hate speech as “public speech that expresses hate or encourages violence toward a person or group based on something such as race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation (=the fact of being gay, etc.).”
Twitter: In its March 5 update, Twitter said, “…we expanded our rules against hateful conduct to include language that dehumanizes others on the basis of religion.” As per their new policy against “hateful conduct”, users are discouraged from promoting “violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, caste, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease.”
Reddit: Rule 1 of Reddit’s content rules states, “Everyone has a right to use Reddit free of harassment, bullying, and threats of violence. Communities and users that incite violence or that promote hate based on identity or vulnerability will be banned.”
Facebook: Hate speech is one element of Facebook’s “Community Standards”. The platform states, “We do not allow hate speech on Facebook because it creates an environment of intimidation and exclusion and in some cases may promote real-world violence.
“We define hate speech as a direct attack on people based on what we call protected characteristics — race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, caste, sex, gender, gender identity, and serious disease or disability,” it adds.
Apart from social media platforms, agencies such as the UN have also taken note of hate speech. UN launched the Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech in 2019 that aims to provide the resources to tackle hate speech, in line with international human rights and the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
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