A California judge decided Thursday not to throw out a lawsuit filed against Twitter that accused the company of violating the free speech rights of white supremacist Jared Taylor when Twitter banned him from the platform late last year.
The Associated Press reported San Francisco Superior Court Judge Harold Kahn narrowed the scope of the lawsuit filed by Taylor but denied Twitter's request to dismiss the suit completely. Judge Kahn described the case as a "classic public interest lawsuit" that "goes to the heart of free speech principles that long precede our constitution."
Taylor, the founder of the white supremacist website American Renaissance, was caught up in Twitter's crackdown on racists back in December. Both Taylor's personal account and the account for his publication — both of which were adorned with Twitter's blue checkmark given to verified users — were banned from the platform.
For most of his career, Taylor operated mostly in obscurity, publishing American Renaissance and operating the "race-realist, white advocacy" think tank New Century Foundation. According to the Anti-Defamation League, Taylor mostly published "pseudo-scientific studies that attempt to demonstrate the intellectual and cultural superiority of whites."
Just so you know the kind of person you're dealing with, here's a couple gems of Taylor's publications, as documented by the Southern Poverty Law Center:
"Blacks and whites are different. When blacks are left entirely to their own devices, Western civilisation — any kind of civilisation — disappears."
"Race realism therefore has no theory of religion, the family, art, or the role of government, except in the very general sense that it expects whites to love, first and foremost, the infinite riches created by European man."
In 2012, Taylor stopped the print publication of American Renaissance and moved the operation entirely online. As social media often does, it allowed Taylor to connect with others like him and spread his ideology — a task that certainly was not hurt by Twitter granting him a big, blue checkmark. (The company swears its verified badge is only intended to confirm the identity of the account holder but it's often viewed as a sign of legitimacy.)
When Twitter finally decided to do something about Taylor's ilk by banning them from the platform, Taylor fought back with a lawsuit, which he first filed in February with representation from Marc Randazza — a lawyer who also represented Andrew Anglin, the founder of neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer.
While many expected the case to just get tossed, Judge Kahn has instead allowed it to move forward — albeit in a limited manner. According to The Verge, Taylor will be able to move forward with the accusation that Twitter violated California's Unfair Competition law by making misleading statements about its position on speech.
(Twitter once described itself as the "free speech wing of the free speech party.")
"It may be speech that you and I don't wish to enjoy, but that's not germane to the determination of whether it's public interest. Public interest doesn't have a flavour of ideology to it; public interest is whether it benefits the public," Judge Kahn said, according to a transcript of the hearing.
It still seems unlikely that Taylor emerges victorious in his challenge. Eric Goldman, the co-director of the Santa Clara University High Tech Law Institute, told The Verge the court's ruling "flies in the face of substantial contrary precedent" and that "Twitter's contract has been upheld in dozens of cases."
Still, by allowing it to move forward, Taylor's case is already more successful than a number of legal challenges brought by other members of the far-right who have attempted to pursue similar action.