While the title of the article is Zerohedge’s Twitter Account is Permanently Banished this article by Michael Krieger of Liberty Blitzkrieg is more about why censorship, especially a lifetime ban, is egregious for any social media platform. Today Twitter also suspended conservative journalist James O’Keefe for reporting on some Bernie Sanders campaign supporters.
This post will cover three main issues. First, the fact that Twitter and other social media companies have essentially created a caste system when it comes to engagement on their platforms. Second, the question of whether or not a lifetime ban from social media platforms is an ethical concept. Third, the dangers of Twitter essentially throwing the entire timeline of a banished account into the memory hole.
For all intents and purposes, @Twitter has created a caste system on its platform. This goes against the entire spirit of why almost all of us joined social media. It’s a massive, dangerous problem and it must be addressed.
I’ll be touching on this and much more in a post later.
— Michael Krieger (@LibertyBlitz) February 3, 2020
As the internet and social media started gaining traction, the idea of the “citizen journalist” grew increasingly popular and the public discovered how all sorts of previously unknown people can bring a great deal of hidden information and interesting perspectives to the table. This led to competing narratives on all sorts of topics, and we all basically agreed it’s best to treat people like adults and let them sort things out for themselves. That is, until Hillary Clinton lost an election.
At that point, a certain segment of the population went completely mental and started demanding social media companies fight and censor “fake news.” This anti-liberal perspective, largely promoted by self-proclaimed liberals, deeply affected how social media executives think about and treat platform content in the subsequent years. The result has been that Twitter and other tech giants have effectively created a caste system on their platforms. Though they won’t explicitly admit it, the executives at these companies now seem to believe certain people and organizations should be given priority to shape the national narrative, while others should be diminished. While they tolerate the latter group until they become too influential and disruptive, the former class exists at a level entirely above Twitter’s terms of service. Certain people and organizations are permitted to do whatever they like on the platform, while others are subject to increasingly arbitrary and subjective bans. It’s rapidly becoming an intentionally rigged system designed to reallocate narrative control in a certain direction.
Ask yourself, do you think there’s anything CNN could do to get banned from Twitter for life? I don’t. I genuinely think the news organization CNN can do absolutely anything it wants on or off Twitter and never be considered for a lifetime ban. Why? It’s a protected organization. CNN is above the Twitter law, and as such exists at the very top of the social media caste system. It’s not just CNN of course, there are many individuals and organizations simply not subject to Twitter’s terms of service in the way you or I are. A politician calling for mass government violence abroad (war) is another example. This sort of thing happens regularly without any consequences. Why? Twitter has determined advocating for preemptive government violence is considered reasonable. They’ve determined advocating for one form of violence (war) is fine, but advocating for other kinds of violence is not. Nobody asked for any of this, but here we are.
The next thing I want to discuss is the entire concept of a lifetime ban from a dominant social media company like Twitter. The more I think about it, the more ethically indefensible this practice appears to be. Just as we shouldn’t jail a person for life except under the most extreme circumstances, we shouldn’t be comfortable flippantly banning people forever on large social media platforms. Such action assumes people can’t and don’t change, but Twitter doesn’t seem to be looking at the enforcement of its terms of service from a fundamentally fair or ethical point of view. Executives are increasingly utilizing this most extreme form of punishment, the lifetime ban, at the drop of a hat for minor or misunderstood violations. There are many other ways Twitter could deal with what it deems to be serious violations. You can have three month, six month or even year long bans, but a lifetime banishment is an extreme and indefensible position in almost all cases I’ve observed in recent months.
As such, it’s become clear to me Twitter isn’t using this tool in order to enforce its terms of service, but rather its terms of service exist to provide an excuse to eliminate anyone or any account executives or Brooklyn-based corporate bloggers deem unpalatable…