Editorial: Thanks for the 280 characters Twitter, Now let’s get rid of Nazis

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Twitter isn’t fun anymore, and it hasn’t been fun in a long time. A lot of people hate it, and if it didn’t feel almost needed to stay up-to-date in the modern era, so many users would abandon the site. Many already have, CNN reports that between Q1 and Q2 2017 that its monthly user base in 2017 declined from 70 to 68 million.

The social media platform could do a lot of things to improve itself. Fundamental changes like fixing the broken harassment system, fully investigate how Russian bots using the platform could’ve influenced the 2016 election or, deal with their widespread Nazi infestation.

Instead of this, they opted for changing another non-issue element. Earlier this week Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced the rollout of increasing the character limit of tweets from 140 to 280, doubling the size. Twitter users will eventually accept this change, just as they accepted “liking” a tweet rather than “favoriting” it, or the change from square to circle avatars.

What they might not accept is the continued ignoring of the things that make the site feel more like a burden rather than the experience Twitter staff aims for it to be.  More specifically, it can no longer ignore that the service is a hotbed for white supremacy.

Don’t see it as an issue? A study published in September 2016 by George Washington University’s Program on Extremism compared the use of Twitter between American white nationalists and ISIS supports, stating “major American white nationalist movements on Twitter added about 22,000 followers since 2012, an increase of about 600%” and that “Nazis had a median follower count almost eight times greater than ISIS supporters, and a mean count more than 22 times greater.”

The same study found that during the time period they studied, just three white nationalist accounts, and four Nazi accounts were suspended while at the same time 1,100 ISIS accounts were terminated.

Twitter did suspend multiple accounts associated with the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer. White nationalist Richard Spencer was also suspended for a very brief period of time, but his account was reinstated and verified.  These mark small steps in a longer march to better the site.

The sad thing is Twitter currently has tools to fix the issue. In Germany and France, the platform is legally required to hide certain Nazi accounts due to national hate-speech laws.  The filter isn’t perfect, but it is better than the apparent inaction American Twitter has, and would be a welcome change to the website.

Following Charlottesville, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg stated, ““It’s a disgrace that we still need to say that neo-Nazis and white supremacists are wrong — as if this is somehow not obvious.” Jack Dorsey retweeted Joe Biden and President Obama but didn’t actually denounce Nazis himself.