Twitter permanently banned former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke from its platform on Friday. According to a report by The Associated Press, Twitter states Duke's account "has been permanently suspended for repeated violations of the Twitter rules on hateful conduct." The company did not specify which posts violated its rules, nor why it chose now to act.
Twitter reportedly said that Duke's suspension was due to its new policy surrounding potentially harmful links. The site has updated its policy to discourage users from sharing links to hateful content or harmful material, and said that more suspensions were likely. At the time of his suspension, Duke had over 53,000 followers on Twitter and often posted racist, anti-semitic, misogynistic and homophobic material there.
Duke is one of the few people to have publicly held the title of Grand Wizard within the KKK. He founded his own chapter of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in 1974, trying to rebrand the racist fraternity to be lawful and nonviolent. As he got more media attention, Duke insisted his organization was "not anti-Black" but simply "pro-White." Still, his career is rife with racist speeches and actions up until the present day.
Duke ultimately left the KKK saying that he could not change its association with racism, nor could he maintain control of how its members represented the organization. Duke's version of the KKK was far different from previous iterations of the terroristic organization, not least of all because Duke himself publicly admitted to being its leader.
Duke was an early adopter of the internet and has been outspoken online for years. More recently, he has used his platforms — including Twitter — to speak out in support of President Donald Trump. Back in 2015, the Trump administration came under fire when it did not renounce the public endorsement of Duke.
After denying that he knew who Duke was, Trump finally caved in, saying he was "a bigot, a racist, a problem. I mean, this is not exactly the people you want in your party." Duke said that Trump's rhetoric is even more radical than his own, according to a report by ThinkProgress. He also said that he will still be voting for Trump in 2020, but wishes that Trump would drop Mike Pence as vice president and take on Fox News host Tucker Carlson instead.
So far, Twitter has not received overwhelming praise for banning Duke, with some saying the move was "long overdue." The Southern Poverty Law Center, for example, issued a statement to CNN saying: "Twitter, and other social media companies and message boards, still have a lot of work to do to clean up their platforms and stop the spread of hateful ideologies and propaganda."