Tech companies continue efforts to banish extremist accounts
NEW YORK — Tech companies’ efforts to banish extremist groups and individuals are continuing as a social network popular with extremists disappeared from Google’s Android app store.
Gab had already been unavailable in Apple’s store, though it remains accessible on the web.
The banishments come in the wake of the deadly clash at a white-nationalist rally last weekend in Virginia. Civil rights advocates welcomed the moves, but say more needs to be done — and more should have been done earlier.
Here is a look at some of the technology services that have banned hate groups or have otherwise come out against white supremacists and their supporters:
Ahead of the rally, the housing booking service Airbnb barred rentals to people it believed were traveling to participate. The company said it used its existing background checks and “input from the community” to identify users who didn’t align with its standards.
Facebook removed several groups and individuals from its service and Instagram for what it calls violations of terms banning hate speech. Groups included Vanguard America, Physical Removal and Genuine Donald Trump. The company uses a combination of artificial intelligence and human moderators to weed out groups, posts and people that violate its policies. Spokeswoman Ruchika Budhraja acknowledges this is a difficult task, as determining what is hate speech is more difficult than something like a beheading video or child pornography.
Twitter, meanwhile, appears to have suspended the account for neo-Nazi site Daily Stormer, though the company doesn’t comment on individual accounts.
Google has removed Gab, a social network that extremists flocked to, for “hate speech,” Gab tweeted. Gab’s logo is a green cartoon frog, reminiscent of “Pepe the Frog,” the internet meme that’s become a symbol of the “alt-right,” a fringe movement that’s known for its racist, anti-Semitic and sexist views.
The Daily Stormer’s publisher said he has been effectively “banned from the internet” after mocking the victim of a deadly car attack during the protests in Charlottesville. Andrew Anglin said by email he is “figuring out the next step” after four domain registration companies refused to service his site. GoDaddy and Google said earlier that the site violated their terms of service. After briefly reappearing under a Russian domain name, the site was again offline Wednesday after the security company Cloudflare Inc. dropped him as a customer, leaving the site vulnerable to hacking attacks.
Email marketing firm MailChimp said some groups had their accounts terminated after it changed its terms of service on Monday to exclude customers whose primary purpose was “inciting harm” or promoting “discriminatory, hateful, or harassing content.” Squarespace, a website service company, said it banished some sites out of concern they “could be used to facilitate or promote behavior that gives rise to violence.” Identity Evropa, a northern California hate group that helped organize participants in Charlottesville, tweeted that it had lost service from MailChimp, Squarespace and PayPal.
PayPal has been removing payment accounts linked to known hate groups in the months leading up to Charlottesville, according to the company and a civil rights organization it was working with. For example, the account for the Daily Stormer was banned several months ago. In a blog post, the company said it “strives to navigate the balance between freedom of expression and open dialogue — and the limiting and closing of sites that accept payments or raise funds to promote hate, violence and intolerance.”
Online fundraising sites GoFundMe and Patreon also banned people and canceled fundraisers associated with right-wing hate groups. GoFundMe confirmed that it removed “multiple campaigns” for James Fields, the driver accused of driving his car into protesters and killing a woman.
The music streaming service banned music it said “favors hatred or incites violence against race, religion, sexuality or the like” after it was alerted to white supremacist bands on its service by the music blog Digital Music News . The blog found bands identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as white power music streaming on Spotify.
Dating site OKCupid tweeted that it had banned white nationalist Christopher Cantwell, saying “There is no room for hate in a place where you’re looking for love.”
OUTSIDE THE TECH WORLD
Discover said Thursday that it is “in the process” of terminating the accounts of hate groups. The racial justice group Color of Change had called on the credit card company, along with American Express, Mastercard and Visa, to stop processing funds for hate groups.