On the morning of June 30, 2020, I opened my Twitter account and received a notice that it had been suspended. Following a link that promised to lead me an explanation, I learned that I had been suspended for:
“…Violating our rules against hateful conduct. You may not promote violence against, threaten, or harass other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease.”
The notice provided copies of the offending tweet, which may be seen to the left. Please note that nowhere in my tweet is there any reference to a race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease. Please note also that there is no promotion of violence against other people, nor any threats or harassment of other people. In short, there was absolutely nothing in my tweet to violate the cited Twitter rule.
Attached to my tweet was a link to this excellent article by Ray McGovern of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, an organization of whistle-blowers from the various U.S. intelligence agencies. Mr. McGovern was a CIA analyst from 1963 to 1990, and in the 1980s chaired National Intelligence Estimates and prepared the President’s Daily Brief. He now writes for Consortium News and other alternative press sites, and I find his analysis to be consistently lucid and on-target.
The portion of my tweet which appears in quotation marks is from another excellent article by the Australian commentator Caitlin Johnstone, which is also quoted by Mr. McGovern at the end of his own article. Although I sometimes disagree with Ms. Johnstone’s more psychedelic offerings, she has demonstrated many times that when she takes aim at the courtesans of the media and their neocon clients, she exposes their corruption with brilliant precision.
Needless to say, I am not the only user of social media to be subjected to some form of censorship. Neocons have been vociferously demanding censorship of social media with growing shrillness over the past few years. Of course, they don’t call it censorship, unless it is being done by a nation on their very extensive enemies list. They market domestic censorship very shrewdly, appealing to the specific prejudices of whatever target audience they are trying to get riled up.
Consequently, groups and individuals are being suspended, demonetized, or deplatformed with increasing frequency. This is happening to voices from a wide assortment of ideological niches, generally the ones with the most vocal and crafty opponents — the squeaky wheel gets the grease, unless your viewpoint is significant enough to get the secret police agencies involved, in which case different rules apply.
For many Americans who have come to distrust the corporate media, social media provide an alternative venue for the circulation of news, much of it also fake, but without the filtering system that protects consumers of CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times, and other outlets from exposure to information that lacks the neocon imprimatur. The neocon pundits such as David Frum or Jim Sciutto are hyperactive on Twitter, attempting to drown out opposing views, but nothing beats the prospect of simply silencing the nonconformists.
Interestingly, this controversy drew the attention of President Trump, who, for better or worse, had hit upon the tactic of using Twitter to communicate with his base, in order to evade the hostile attentions of the corporate media. On May 28, 2020, Trump issued an Executive Order on Preventing Online Censorship, which was tailored for the purposes of protecting himself and his allies but could possibly benefit many others. Trump’s critics were outraged. Then, in early January 2021, Twitter asserted its dominance with a permanent suspension of Trump’s account.
It is clearly going to be a monumental task to devise a fair system of rules when most parties are hoping simply to silence their opponents, while simultaneously getting their own word out as widely as possible. At this point, we are seeing the emergence of a new power center, which has been described in a variety of ways but might generically be termed the Military/Intelligence/Media/Silicon Valley Complex. Some efforts are underway to rein it in.
Meanwhile, in my own case, I had found that attempting to communicate with Twitter about my suspension is a Kafkaesque proposition. It appeared to me that all responses to my queries had been automated, and the AI hordes which I imagine Twitter uses for this purpose were clearly confused, since they kept sending me notifications in which they congratulated me for having turned myself in.
To celebrate Independence Day, Twitter sent me an update to my case on July 4. Apparently I was no longer accused of violating Twitter’s rules on hateful conduct. Instead, I was violating Twitter’s Terms of Service. I was looking forward to finding out how I did that.
Since my tweet cannot be credibly found in violation of Twitter’s hateful conduct rules, I am going to assume here that the person(s) who complained against me had enough political juice that Twitter took action against me without a plausible rationale, and subsequently engaged in a bit of CYA with the “Terms of Service violation” approach.
As the year 2020 continued, it had become clear that Twitter had no intention of responding to my requests for an explanation of my purported “Terms of Service violation.” To my knowledge, I have to this day never communicated with an actual human on Twitter. On November 17, I received a notice that my appeal case had been closed, going back to the original, nonsensical claim of “hate speech”:
The rules don’t really matter; the Powers That Be are busily imposing their own version of order upon the once rambunctiously free and open internet. But it may be that they became overconfident and/or reckless shortly before the presidential election. The decision by both Facebook and Twitter to censor a New York Post article that was potentially damaging to the electoral prospects of candidate Joe Biden caused a significant controversy, leading to an announcement on October 15 by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai that he is planning to take a new look at Section 230 of the Communications Act. Section 230 grants to social media companies immunity from certain consumer protection laws that apply to news media, on the grounds that the social media companies merely offer a forum to the public without exercising any editorial control over content. Clearly, that ship has sailed.