'White power' hate groups using Twitter with "relative impunity"

The crackdown on Islamic State users hasn't spread to others promoting terror attacks online...

A new study has found that white nationalists and self-identified Nazi sympathisers are avoiding Twitter bans far more easily than militant Islamists, Reuters reports.

The accounts of the American Nazi Party and 17 other prominent white nationalist groups chiefly based in the US were examined and found to have actually enjoyed a sharp increase in Twitter followers over the past four years. Their numbers have now passed a total of over 25,000, up from the 2012 figure of 3,500.

The study conducted by George Washington University's Program on Extremism compared this "relative impunity" with the clampdown on accounts on the social media platform with links to the Islamic State.

It was noted that the data collected represented a fraction of the ideology's presence on Twitter and that it was insufficient to estimate the overall online presence of the groups.

Twitter announced in August that its aggressive campaign to suspend ISIS users had resulted in the closure of 360,000 accounts since the middle of 2015 for threatening or promoting what the tech company perceived to be terrorist acts.

The report concluded that:

"White nationalists and Nazis outperformed ISIS in average friend and follower counts by a substantial margin.

"Nazis had a median follower count almost eight times greater than ISIS supporters, and a mean count more than 22 times greater.”

JM Berger, the author of the report, told Reuters that the likes of Twitter and Facebook have found it difficult to enforce standards against white nationalist groups as they are less cohesive than ISIS networks and present greater free speech complications.

The accounts examined in the study showed a strong affinity for Donald Trump  the Republican Party's US presidential nominee has been accused himself of retweeting account associated with white nationalists. Three of the top 10 hashtags used most frequently by the accounts were related to Trump.

Only #whitegenocide was more popular than Trump-related hashtags.

Twitter has come in for much criticism in recent times regarding its ability to deal with the vast amount of abuse that is being tweeted on a daily basis. The most high-profile case over the summer saw rebooted Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones temporarily quit Twitter after receiving abusive messages.

Twitter's co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey has told investors:

"No one deserves to be the target of abuse on Twitter. We haven’t been good enough at ensuring that’s the case, and we need to do better.”

Dorsey identified 'safety' as Twitter's number one priority at the start of the year and he said that "recent events have only confirmed" that call.