Proud Boys Cite Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to Attack Antifa
After Dorsey said the company was ‘probably way too aggressive’ in stopping harassment of journalists, a hate group took the message as permission to go on the offensive.
A recent interview by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey inspired far-right group the Proud Boys in a Twitter campaign to ban anti-fascists, according to chat logs reviewed by The Daily Beast.
In a group in the messenger app Telegram, leader Enrique Tarrio encouraged his group to report anti-fascist Twitter accounts, some of which identified members of extremist groups. Tarrio accused some of the anti-fascists of “doxxing,” a loose term for revealing personal information. But in the same chat, Tarrio encouraged doxxing “commies” and announced a new campaign in which Proud Boys would allegedly collect information about undocumented immigrants and release it in response to tweets and articles they dislike.
Tarrio cited a recent Dorsey interview as supposed evidence Twitter would be sympathetic to their cause.
During an appearance on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast last week, Dorsey answered allegations that Twitter had been too quick to ban right-wing Twitter accounts. Dorsey addressed bans over the “learn to code” harassment campaign aimed at laid-off journalists, stating that he “we were probably way too aggressive” in combating the campaign.
In a Telegram group called “PB Mass Report thread,” Tarrio used Dorsey’s interview to rally against anti-fascists last week.
“With the developments today on the Joe Rogan podcast. It is important that you tweet @twittersupport on account[s] that we know are Antifa. Always use this link when tweeting,” Tarrio wrote, linking to a U.K. outlet’s article that falsely claimed “US security agencies label Antifa ‘domestic terrorists.’” (“Antifa” is a political stance, not an official group. The U.K. article incorrectly aggregated a Politico article that claimed the Department of Homeland Security classified actions of individual “anarchist extremists” as domestic terrorism.)
The Proud Boys are a violent ultra-nationalist group that regularly claims to support “free speech.” They and other far-right groups have been locked in a years-long internet battle with anti-fascists, who routinely name members of far-right groups or leak their communications. Tarrio’s message appeared to be an attempt to pressure Twitter to ban accounts for being anti-fascist.
Later that day, he shared an anti-fascist group’s tweet, which identified his Twitter account, and called on followers to flag it for terrorism based on the incorrect news story. “Tag the article and @TwitterSupport and tell them the accounts name is antifa,” he said.
Twitter’s rules against posting personal information explicitly describe banned content as “private contact or financial information, such as: credit card information, social security or other national identity numbers, private residences, personal home addresses, or other locations that are considered private, non-public, personal phone numbers, and non-public, personal email addresses.”
“Some examples of information that is not considered private include: name, birthdate or age, business addresses, places of education or employment, descriptions of appearance,” the site’s rules continue.
Some tweets Tarrio shared in the Telegram chat appeared to share phone numbers or addresses of Proud Boys, in violation of Twitter rules. But most identified Proud Boys or members of other extremist groups based on their social media profiles or identified those Proud Boys’ employers, which is allowed under Twitter rules.
Sometimes he appeared to scramble for justification to report anti-fascist tweets. When an anti-fascist account shared a screenshot of a public Proud Boy Facebook post about organizing “the biggest PB gathering the Michigan area has ever seen,” in January, Tarrio told the group to report the tweet for “targeted harassment.”
When a Twitter user noted that a prominent Portland, Oregon Proud Boy’s Facebook profile picture showed him attacking an anti-fascist, Tarrio recommended reporting the tweet for “maybe targeted harassment?” On multiple occasions, Tarrio shared screenshots of accounts they targeted, which were suspended but not banned.
Even when anti-fascists deliberately redacted a Proud Boy’s address from his publicly available arrest report, Tarrio asked Proud Boys to report the tweet as containing “private information.”
Tarrio did not always object to posting personal information on Twitter. “I’m baiting them into putting my private info online,” he told followers of anti-fascists in December. On March 10, he announced a campaign to dox undocumented immigrants and turn them over to federal law enforcement in attempt to silence critics.
He titled the campaign “Operation: Righteous Deportation.”
“From now on, every dox, lying article, and fake hate crime we get blamed for has a consequence,” read an image he shared. “We will name an illegal immigrant that we personally report to I.C.E. and track his status for every incident.”
He ordered Proud Boys to “gather intel” on immigrants.
Tarrio prematurely sicced his followers on at least one Facebook account, which he believed was impersonating him. “This account is on FB and it’s pretending to be me. Fake profile fake name,” he wrote, linking to an account. He later walked back the attack orders. “So...don’t report that last one….long and funny story...sorry guys!”
In at least one instance, Tarrio used the chat to organize harassment of a journalist. In February, Tarrio tweeted a picture of former Chilean dictator Augosto Pinochet at Miami New Times reporter Jerry Iannelli, who covers the Proud Boys. The far right uses Pinochet as an allusion to mimicking his murder tactics against journalists and political opponents. When Iannelli reported the tweet, Twitter responded that it did not violate site rules. Iannelli tweeted the response from Twitter.
“Hey @jack @TwitterSupport,” Iannelli wrote. “The chairman of the fucking Proud Boys tweeted an image of Augusto Pinochet at me, which is a reference to an alt-right meme about Pinochet disemboweling journalists and chucking them from helicopters. Your broken website found nothing wrong here.”
Tarrio shared Iannelli’s tweet in the Proud Boys chat, instructing the group to harass Iannelli.
“Nothing to report, but something to laugh at and raid!” he wrote. Proud Boys responded to Iannelli’s tweet with more apparent death threats.