White separatist Jared Taylor and his American Renaissance organization are suing Twitter for permanently suspending their accounts, a move that comes amid a building conservative backlash against the social network.
The suit, filed in San Francisco Superior Court on Feb. 20, argues that Twitter suspended the accounts because it didn't like the nature of Taylor's and American Renaissance's tweets, not because they violated its rules.
"Twitter took this action only because it disagreed with the content of their tweets, not because Taylor or American Renaissance violated the company's terms of service," according to a press release on the publication's website.
A Twitter spokeswoman declined to comment on the lawsuit.
The lawsuit comes as Twitter finds itself at the center of a social media storm driven in part by conservatives who feel they're being shut out. In November, the site Richard Spencer and Jason Kessler. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said later in the month that Twitter maintains a "double standard" in how it treats conservative users.from accounts linked to white nationalists including
Twitter in December began enforcing an updated policy aimed at reducing hateful and abusive content. The changes included a ban on promoting violence and hate in usernames or bios, possible permanent suspension of accounts that threaten violence or death and a ban on accounts that feature hate symbols and images.
On Wednesday, the social media platform confirmed it's cleaning up the site by. The move outraged conservative and far-right users, many of whom said they lost thousands of followers overnight. The purge appeared to target conservatives, according to many users, who employed the hashtag #TwitterLockout to call out the site.
American Renaissance calls the account suspensions "censorship." Its lawsuit is about defending freedom of speech, the group says.
"It's unconscionable that [Twitter] should reserve the right to terminate an account for any reason or no reason at all," Taylor said in an interview. "We hope, eventually, to end any content-based censorship by social media companies."
According to the organization, Twitter said the suspensions are in line with its "terms of service" and that the accounts are "affiliated with a violent extremist group." American Renaissance argues that its members have never been connected to violence.
The release also says the accounts never engaged in trolling or abusive language, stating that Taylor and American Renaissance "always practiced gentlemanly debate and respectful disagreement" in running the accounts.
Taylor said just as an electric or telephone company can't refuse to do business with someone because of his or her views, social media companies shouldn't have the right to censor anyone with "unfashionable or controversial" opinions.
"There's an argument that these are private companies, and that as private companies, they have the right to associate with whomever they choose," Taylor said. "But something as big as Twitter has become, essentially, a public utility."
Taylor and American Renaissance are being represented by Marc Randazza, who also represents Andrew Anglin, publisher of the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer website. A Montana woman is suing the publication for inciting a troll storm against her.
First published Feb. 22, 9:53 a.m. PT.
Update, 2:22 p.m. PT: Adds comments from Jared Taylor of American Renaissance.
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