Twitter suspended the accounts of Vice Magazine co-founder Gavin McInnes and his far-right Proud Boys group Friday afternoon. The suspension came ahead of this weekend’s “Unite the Right” rally in Washington, D.C.
The accounts were shut down for violating the company’s policies prohibiting violent extremist groups, Twitter said in a statement to BuzzFeed News, which was first to report the suspension.
McInnes co-founded Vice Magazine with Vice Media’s current executive chairman Shane Smith in 1994, but left the company in 2008. He went on to found the Proud Boys in 2016.
The group and its members self-identify as “Western chauvinists,” and McInnes has in the past publicly distanced himself from white supremacists. However, Proud Boys regularly take part in far-right events, where members have been observed participating in violence against counter-demonstrators. Before its suspension Friday, the official Twitter account of the organization featured a cover photo of a Proud Boy punching a counter-protester.
Jason Kessler, the organizer of last year’s “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., was a member of the Proud Boys until the group expelled him following the backlash against the violent nature of the rally, which included the killing of a counter-protester. Kessler is organizing a one-year-anniversary rally in Washington, D.C., on Sunday (Aug. 12).
Twitter’s suspension of McInnes and the Proud Boys also comes as the company has come under fire for not suspending the accounts of far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his Infowars media outlet even after YouTube, Apple and Facebook banned Jones from their platforms.
CEO Jack Dorsey defended the decision Tuesday by arguing that Jones had not violated any of the company’s policies, but subsequent media reports pointed to a number of tweets that appeared to violate Twitter’s rules. Tweets referenced in a CNN story have since been deleted.