Almost immediately, far-right hate groups began wielding the new safeguard to harass and intimidate leftist activists by coordinating the mass reporting of all posts with photos to lock their foes out of their accounts and stifle their online presence.
Horvater’s message mentioned leftist Twitter accounts to target, including at least one Miami handle, @MIAagainstFash. Almost every day Miami Against Fascism publishes lengthy Twitter threads listing photos, screenshots, and information on local members of the far-right hate group the Proud Boys and other local right-wing activists who organize anti-vaccine and -mask protests across South Florida.
Backed by the #ProudBoys, neo-Nazi leader Tony Hovater, who once took orders from Matthew Heimbach, known for advocating genocide of all Jews, says that the new @TwitterSafety policy works “more in our favor,” and encourages mass reporting of accounts reporting on the far-Right. pic.twitter.com/yyQImUSga8
— It’s Going Down (@IGD_News) December 3, 2021
The person behind Miami Against Fascism tells New Times the account received 31 notices to take down content. Twitter temporarily froze the account less than 24 hours after the policy went into effect.
“We knew this would happen. We knew far-right actors would attempt to weaponize the policy to attack anti-fascist researchers and evade accountability. The way the policy is being enforced is not protecting marginalized people — it’s doing the opposite,” says Diego, who runs the account and spoke to New Times on the condition that his full name not be published for fear of retaliation. “We started in July of this year when the Proud Boys began doxxing local Black Lives Matter activists and hold meet and greet events, that’s when we said we needed to organize proactively against this. Our goal broadly is to expose the far-right and far-right extremism.”
Far-right activists have repeatedly accused Miami Against Fascism of doxxing, the practice of gathering and posting someone’s personal identifying information online for malicious purposes.
But Diego argues that the account only posts social-media screenshots of people in public places and redacts private phone numbers, addresses, and contact information.
“We do not publish any info that shows home address, we don’t publish personal numbers,” Diego says. “Our goal is not to personally harass individuals, just to create sunshine and exposure.
Local far-right groups including the Vice City Proud Boys — which frequently posts individuals’ home addresses on its public Telegram channel — celebrated Miami Against Fascism’s entanglement with the Twitter bureaucracy.
“We will not relent till your page is erased from existence. A bunch of childless soy boy faggots and crazy rainbow haired feminazi cunts,” reads one post from the Vice City Telegram channel about Miami Against Fascism’s issues with Twitter.
More proof of abuse and doxxing of concerned parents from that fascist page: pic.twitter.com/k1XKO9CyrJ
— FL WATCHDOG 🐶 (@CFDoxxer) November 24, 2021
One Twitter account, FL Watchdog (@CFDoxxer), which frequently reposts content from the Proud Boys and also publishes home addresses and contact information of leftist activists, trumpeted the success of the mass reporting aimed at Miami Against Fascism.
“Bye scum,” @CFDoxxer captioned a screenshot of a notice from Twitter that Miami Against Fascism had been locked out of their account following their reports. “Miami fash is officially having a meltdown right now. MISSION ACCOMLISHED [sic] PEOPLE!” read another post. (@CFDoxxer did not return New Times’ requests for comment.)
Some of @CFDoxxer’s own posts were taken down from Twitter, including a thread in which the account posted the home address and contact info of a local activist, Dulcee Barnes.
Diego tells New Times he deleted most of the posts Twitter flagged for removal but notes that some of the posts that were reported didn’t seem to violate the new rule on its face.
“We had a take-down notice on a retweet of a picture of former Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio sitting in front of the Miami school board meeting by Christina Boomer Vazquez from Channel 10 — a tweet by a journalist, not private media,” Diego says.
Thread 🧵 on how the new @TwitterSafety policy has effected anti-fascist / far-right extremist researchers.
— Miami Against Fascism 🌴☕️ (@MIAagainstFash) December 4, 2021
Diego says his page was reinstated after he appealed the ban. From now on, he adds, the account will only use photos taken from public social media accounts and outline exactly how its targets’ actions in the public sphere can negate their claim to privacy.
Howard Wasserman, a First Amendment law professor at Florida International University, isn’t surprised by the fallout of Twitter’s new policy.
“They can’t distinguish between Nazis posting their pictures of their marches to someone posting images of a Nazi march in order to shame them or draw attention to the problem,” Wasserman tells New Times. “There’s a difference between publicizing what someone does in public and disclosing private information like address and phone number. You can’t participate in that march and say you have privacy interests.”
Adds Wasserman: “Twitter’s gonna have to circle back on this. The policy has been a disaster. The fallout is gonna be too great.”