SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) – White extremists are having doors to the internet slammed on efforts to promote violent and bigoted agendas.
Internet titans that have contorted to balance free speech with odious content were standing firm this week against being used to glorify killing in the name of race or eliminating those who oppose that kind of ideology.
A consistent message from Silicon Valley firms contacted by AFP was that advocating violence and bigotry violated clearly-outlined terms of service, resulting in accounts being closed or content being removed.
Just a day after a woman protesting racism was killed at a white supremacist rally, major website hosting service GoDaddy cancelled the domain name of Daily Stormer, which helped organise the event in Charlottesville to protest removal of a Confederate statue.
The ‘Unite the Right’ rally turned tragic when a suspected Nazi sympathiser, James Fields, ploughed his car into a crowd of anti-racism protesters, leaving a woman dead and 19 others injured.
“We generally do not take action on complaints that would constitute censorship of content and that represents the exercise of freedom of speech and expression on the internet,” GoDaddy digital crimes unit director Ben Butler said in an email statement.
“In our determination, especially given the tragic events in Charlottesville, Dailystormer.com crossed the line and encouraged and promoted violence.”
Daily Stormer switched the website to Google Domains. The registration quickly cancelled for “violating our terms of service”, a Google spokesperson said.
The neo-Nazi website also apparently came under attack by hacker group Anonymous and retreated to a ‘dark’ portion of the internet where websites lurk out of sight from online search engines.
Leading social network Facebook and famously free-wheeling online conversation forum Reddit have also taken action against accounts or content in the aftermath of the deadly Charlottesville rally.
Reddit banned a ‘Physical Removal’ community advocating that Democrats be “removed from society” in the real world. Posts at Physical Removal had mocked the woman killed at the rally.
“We strive to be a welcoming, open platform for all by trusting our users to maintain an environment that cultivates genuine conversation and adheres to our content policy,” a Reddit spokesperson said.
“We have banned /r/Physical_Removal due to violations of the terms of our content policy.”
Facebook has a policy of removing material that attacks people based on race or that praises violent acts or hate groups.
Facebook removed shared posts of a Daily Stormer article denigrating the killed anti-racism demonstrator, unless they had captions condemning the content.
The social network applied the same rules used to remove content posted by terrorist groups.
A ‘Unite the Right’ event page was removed from Facebook over the weekend after it became clear that rather than simply promoting an event it was promoting real-world harm.
Other accounts or pages removed from Facebook or its photo-message service Instagram included Right Wing Death Squad; Genuine Donald Trump, and Radical Agenda: Common Sense Extremism.
Facebook and Instagram personal profiles of vocal white supremacist Christopher Cantwell have also been removed.
A free Discord chat service popular with gamers this week shut down accounts evidently being used for violent white nationalist agendas instead of video game play.
Online chat rooms openly praised Adolph Hitler and Nazi genocide, and were used to help organise the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, according to a New York Times report.
Internet fundraising and payment platforms have declined to be used by white supremacists seeking to solicit funds for Fields, who is in jail facing charges including murder.
Online financial transactions service PayPal has a longstanding rule against being used for physical harm or racial intolerance.
“We work to ensure that our services are not used to accept payments or donations for activities that promote hate, violence or racial intolerance,” PayPal senior vice president of corporate affairs Franz Paasche said in a blog post.
“This includes organisations that advocate racist views, such as the KKK, white supremacist groups or Nazi groups.”