“The account you referenced has been permanently suspended for repeated violations of the Twitter Rules on hateful conduct,” the spokesperson said. “This enforcement action is in line with our recently-updated guidance on harmful links.” This is Twitter’s “most severe enforcement action,” according to the website, though it can be appealed.
In recent months, Duke had tweeted misleading information about COVID-19, as well as anti-Semitic and racist content. According to a cached version of his Twitter, his last tweet promoted a video espousing a COVID-19 conspiracy theory. He was banned from YouTube last month for promoting hate speech, along with a number of other far-right extremist figures.
The former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, Duke was elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives in 1989, serving for one term. He later unsuccessfully ran for State Senate and for governor of Louisiana, with prominent right-wing figures such as former President George Bush publicly denouncing him. In 2002, Duke pled guilty to felony fraud for stealing money from political campaign donors and served 15 months in prison. (Duke’s political career is the subject of the fourth season of Slate’s Slow Burn, which premiered last month.)
Though YouTube had banned him, Twitter, specifically, had long been subject to criticism for allowing Duke on the platform. In 2017, it briefly suspended him, though his account was later restored within hours. In 2019, an employee told Motherboard that Twitter was hesitant to adopt an algorithm cracking down on white nationalism because such an algorithm would disproportionately target Republicans, a report that Twitter denied.
Twitter’s ban of Duke comes on the heels of what appears to be a recent initiative cracking down on misleading information and hate speech. In March, it updated its rules regarding hateful content on the platform. Last week, as Rolling Stone reported, Twitter also removed 7,000 accounts associated with the conspiracy theory QAnon, though some critics speculated that the ban may prove to be ineffective at curbing such content on the platform.