MCViewPoint

Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

I Was Banned for Life From Twitter | The American Conservative

Posted by M. C. Fox on August 10, 2018

https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/i-was-banned-for-life-from-twitter/

By PETER VAN BUREN

When I was in Iran, the government there blocked Twitter, effectively deciding for an entire nation what they cannot read. In America, Twitter itself purges users, effectively deciding for an entire nation what they cannot read. It matters little whose hand is on the switch: government or corporate, the end result is the same. This is the America I always feared I’d see…

The government remains a real threat to free speech. But there is another menace now: corporate censorship, often dressed up in NewSpeak terms like “deplatforming,” restricting “hate speech” and “fake news,” and “terms of service.” This isn’t entirely new: corporations have always done as they please with speech. Our protection against corporate overreach used to rely on an idea Americans once held dear, best expressed as “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend your right to say it.” This ethos was core to our democracy: everyone supports the right of others to throw their ideas into the marketplace, where an informed people push bad ideas away with good ones. That system more or less worked for 240 years…

Not anymore. The ACLU now applies a test to the speech cases it will defend, weighing their impact on other issues (for example, the right to say the N-word versus the feelings of people of color). The ACLU in 2018 is siding with those who believe speech should be secondaryto other political goals. Censorship has a place, says the ACLU, when it serves what they determine is a greater good.

So in 2018, whenever old tweets clash with modern-day definitions of racism and sexism, companies fire employees. Under public pressure, Amazon recently removed “Nazi paraphernalia and other far-right junk” from its store. This was just some nasty Halloween gear and Confederate flag merchandise, but the issue is not the value of the products—that’s part of any free speech debate—it’s corporate censorship being used to stifle debate by, in this case, literally pulling items out of the marketplace. Alex Jones’ InfoWars was deplatformed from networks where it had been available for years, including Apple, YouTube (owned by Google), Spotify, and Amazon. The Huffington Post wondered why even more platforms haven’t done away with Jones…

Twitter is perhaps the most infamous example of a platform censoring its content. The site bans advertising from Russian media outlets. It suspends those who promote (what it defines as) hatred and violence, “shadow bans” others to limit the size of their audience, and tweaks its trending topics to push certain political ideas and downplay others. It purges users and bans “hateful symbols.” There are near-daily demands by increasingly organized groups to censor specific users, with Trump at the top of that list. Users can report other users so that Twitter can evaluate whether they should be suspended. The motivation is always the same: to limit the ideas people can choose to be exposed to…

Google (until May) had a slogan commanding its employees: “don’t be evil.” Yet in China, Google is deploying Dragonfly, a version of its search engine that will meet Beijing’s demands for censorship by blocking websites on command. Of course, in China they don’t call it hate speech; they call it anti-societal speech, and the propaganda Google will block isn’t from Russian bots but from respected global media. Meanwhile, Apple removes apps from its store at the command of the Chinese government in return for market access. Amazon, which agreed to pull hateful merchandise from its store in the U.S., the same week confirmed that it is “unwaveringly committed to the U.S. government and the governments we work with around the world” in using its AI and facial recognition technology to spy on their own people. Faced with a future loss of billions of dollars, as was the case for Google and Apple in China, what will corporations do in America?…

Let me end on a personal note. I was this week permanently suspended from my Twitter account, @wemeantwell. This followed an exchange I had with mainstream journalists over their unwillingness to challenge government lies in which I made a flippant remark no hotter than what you see on Twitter every day. Twitter sent an auto-response to me saying that what I wrote “harasses, intimidates, or uses fear to silence someone else’s voice.” I don’t think I did any of that, and I wish you didn’t have to accept my word for it. I wish instead you could have read my words and decided for yourself. But Twitter won’t allow it. They have eliminated everything I wrote there over the past seven years, all down the Memory Hole. That’s why censorship is wrong: it takes the power to decide what is right and wrong away from you and gives it to someone else.

Be seeing you

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