Remember how much fun Twitter was in 2009? For few years there you could chat back and forth with your favorite senator or member of Congress. Politicians and reporters started to tweet things they believed, and you could ask them about it. Reporters started revealing personal political beliefs, and you could ask them about it.
You could direct-message news anchors. I remember the first time Jake Tapper direct-messaged me about something I had tweeted regarding one of his tweets. Twitter seemed like the most fascinating place on the Internet, a place where regular Americans could engage in real time with those who affect policy or report news. Trolling was minimal. You could speak your mind.
That was then. This is now.
I’m not sure when that changed. It was a slow decline. It was like being in a new relationship and everything is fresh and wonderful at the beginning, but then came the fights, the digital slamming of the doors, the silence.
Politicians soon learned their tweets could be used against them. They stopped engaging, and started posting basically campaign slogans. Reporters learned that tweeting their personal views might confirm their bias. Then the trolls scattered in like roaches in an old house.
Twitter wasn’t fun anymore. But I stayed with it, because it was still an excellent way to change minds, and learn from others. I’m not sure when the block and mute features came into being, but they helped me stay. It was a smart way the company used so people didn’t have to read tweets they didn’t want to.
Then the winds of political correctness began to blow. Simply put, @Jack, the CEO of Twitter, started fooling with the system, and it seemed to be censoring more on the Right than on the Left.
I’ve always tried to be very civil, so I never imagined I would be suspended for anything. Imagine my surprise on Friday morning when I clicked on Twitter and was informed that my account had been locked for “violating our rules against hateful conduct.” They sent me to a page that demanded my phone number — which I had never given before, and did not want to then, but that was the only way to get back on.
Then I was directed to a page to delete my two tweets, one from a year ago, and the other from a month ago. The page stated, “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.” As you can see in my two tweets pictured below, I did none of those things. Stating, in a civil manner, why I disagree with transgender troops is in no way a threat or harassment.
The second tweet was in reference from an argument my African friend, Obianuju Ekeocha, was having with Bill Prady, a producer of CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory.” He didn’t seem to want to condemn honor killings, and was pretending they never happen (thus my tweet).
He later acknowledged and said his tweets had indeed “led to the perception I wasn’t condemning honor killings.” He then condemned honor killings, and apologized. But even without the context of the Twitter thread, honor killings among extremist Muslims are a simple fact. How is that hate speech?
In this new Twitter world, where people who have opinions that oppose liberal thought are carted off to Twitter jail, it’s chilling to me that a forum that began as an expression of free ideas would resort to things like shadow banning and suspension. Yes, I understand Jack wanting to stop particularly vile tweets that do threaten or harass, but this has been like cops arresting gang members and scooping up and arresting innocent bystanders as well — except they only arrest the bystanders they didn’t like to begin with.
I still enjoy Twitter. I follow many diverse and interesting voices. They care about what I care about. I hate to see this incredible forum be destroyed from the inside.