Just two weeks after it announced its new “Trust and Safety Council,” there are tentative signs Twitter’s chickens may be coming home to roost. The social media platform earlier this month signaled it intends to begin more actively censoring user-generated content to make users feel more “safe.” A few days ago it claimed its first victim under this new regime, suspending the Twitter account of ardent anti-feminist Robert Stacy McCain. McCain switched to tweeting from the account he had created to promote his book; that, too, was suspended. Regarding McCain’s original handle, Twitter informed him in no uncertain terms: “Your account will not be restored.”
In response, actor Adam Baldwin—an extremely popular Twitter user with nearly a quarter of a million followers—tweeted one final time, deleted the rest of his nearly 10,000 tweets, and quit Twitter for good. A short while later, Ace of Spades—the Frank Lloyd Wright of conservative Twitter rants—signaled that he, too, intends to more or less abandon Twitter.
Taken together, these events—the wholesale suppression of McCain’s Twitter presence, and the departure of two heavyweight conservative voices on the platform—suggest things may be changing on Twitter even faster than previously anticipated. Banning McCain—a man who is noisy and brash, but who constituted a threat to nobody at all—suggests that Twitter’s new “safety” rules will be interpreted more broadly than many of us anticipated, and that soon we may see entire classes of Twitter discourse being censored on an industrial scale.
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If McCain can be boxed out of the platform simply for complaining about feminists—if criticizing modern feminism on the Internet constitutes, in Twitter’s words, “targeted abuse”—then surely the rest of Twitter has a lot more to worry about.
The departures of Baldwin and Ace are no less consequential. It’s entirely likely they have the right idea, and that anyone who cares about free expression and robust public discourse—from any political perspective—should consider abandoning a platform that, for all intents and purposes, appears to be collapsing under its own silly social justice vanities.
Twitter likely sealed its own fate when it decided its users could not adequately police their own content exposure. No longer satisfied with allowing its members to employ the “block” and “mute” functions, Twitter management has elected to do the blocking and muting—and banning—on behalf of everyone. McCain learned this the hard way.
Pundits are quick to point out that, however noisome Twitter’s new policies are, they have every right to implement them, and to block and ban whomever they see fit. This is entirely true. They are free to surrender a once-vibrant and entertaining social media landscape for the grey, stilted, joyless dirge of social justice politics. There are strong indications this is precisely what Twitter intends to do.
The rest of us, meanwhile—those of us who will probably fall under the safety council’s crosshairs, and who are appropriately disgusted with this state of affairs—are also free to do as we wish. And it wouldn’t be the worst thing if we considered getting out of Twitter: radically dialing back our usage of the platform, or else abandoning it altogether.
The writing is on the wall. The safety council is apparently gearing up to get quite serious. McCain was not an end, but a beginning. We could do worse than follow Baldwin’s lead and get off what appears to be a sinking ship in favor of a social media platform that isn’t openly hostile to our presence.
The “Trust and Safety Council” was created “to ensure that people feel safe expressing themselves on Twitter.” It has failed. Act accordingly.