On Wednesday September 5th, Twitter’s Jack Dorsey swore that he would tell the truth to Congress. He didn’t. He lied. I have the old fashioned opinion that such a lie should matter. It remains to be seen whether Congress agrees.
Dorsey was called to testify regarding Twitter’s pathetic attempts to head off the abuse of its platform by continued assaults and abuse from various international sources as it relates to U.S. news and politics, which is a fine issue for Congress to deal with but not from my perspective a very important one. In the course of his hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, two Representatives raised the issue of a specific violent posting regarding my wife, which had already attracted national attention.
Their questions amounted to: why wasn’t this obvious violation of your stated rules removed faster? Why did it require publicity to get attention from your offices? What do you intend to do to prevent this in the future?
Dorsey’s answers equivocated on each point. He lied, blatantly, about the details of the matter – particularly how long the image was up (I have the screencaps to prove that). But there was one particular exchange – published in USA Today and elsewhere – which still sticks in my mind today.
“That was unacceptable,” Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey told members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “We did take way too many hours to act.”
“Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, asked Dorsey if he’s apologized to the McCain family.
“I haven’t personally, but I will,” he said. He said that under oath.
Jack Dorsey has never contacted my wife or me to apologize.
Why is this an issue today? Because so much of our relationship with the wild west of Silicon Valley’s social media enterprises is based on clarity and confidence – a clarity about the rules, and a confidence in the belief that disputed cases are decided with equanimity, blind to the politics of those involved.
Yesterday Twitter announced they were permanently banning the account of Jesse Kelly, a U.S. Marine, frequent cable news guest, and Houston radio host who also happens to be a contributor to The Federalist. In response, we promoted him to Senior Contributor. You can read his article about being banned here.
Kelly has a persona on Twitter which is ribald and wry, hilarious for those who agree with his politics and infuriating for those who do not. There was no triggering event for his ban. He hadn’t even received a warning from Twitter about any of his many hilarious but problematic Tweets in the two years since he was verified, let alone a suspension.
In other words, there was no described violation of the Terms of Service of Twitter. Someone within the hierarchy of the company just got irritated with him and decided it was his time to be gone. And they don’t want to have to justify their decision.
Now, is Twitter free to do that? To arbitrarily permanently ban someone a staffer dislikes for no defined reason? Of course. But consider this: the language of 47 U.S. Code § 230 exempts social media companies from liability as publishers because they purportedly “offer a forum for a true diversity of political discourse.”
How can Twitter possibly meet that standard, in order to remain immune from the laws all other publishers abide by, and ban Jesse Kelly for making jokes about feminists?
But Kelly is not alone. This past week also saw the permanent banning of a left of center Canadian feminist, Meghan Murphy, who had the audacity to criticize a Trans man as not looking out for the interests of women.
“On Twitter, Murphy regularly engaged in debates about sex, gender, and women’s studies. In fact, she holds a master’s degree in the field from Simon Fraser University. In other words: She isn’t stupid or a troll. She’s an educated, opinionated woman, seeking to use her Twitter platform to develop her understanding of the topics and to engage others in debate.
“In August, I was locked out of my Twitter account for the first time,” Murphy writes, explaining the timeline. “I was told that I had ‘violated [Twitter’s] rules against hateful conduct’ and that I had to delete four tweets in order to gain access to my account again. In this case, the tweets in question named Lisa Kreut, a trans-identified male.”
“Her tweets called out Kreut for trying to boycott and defund Vancouver Rape Relief. Twitter didn’t care what the feud was about or that it was legitimate and fact-based. They only cared about the fact that Kreut was transgender and decided to define disputes about transgenderism as “hate speech.”
“Twitter also recently banned “deadnaming”—the practice of referring to a trans person by his or her legal name, or birth name. This also likely played a role in Murphy’s suspensions and ultimate ban.”
The basis is a new Twitter policy announced this week – one must keep up on Big Brother’s latest pronouncements – that “misgendering” and “deadnaming” are bannable offenses. This policy is going to be a beast to enforce given that the offenses are easy to slip into – even today there will be people who refer to Bruce Jenner, and Caitlyn Jenner has said that isn’t offensive. Twitter has now decided it’s a bannable offense.
Before Kelly’s ban, I knew Jack Dorsey lied to Congress about how Twitter reacts to threats against conservatives – and anyone willing to lie to Congress, especially about something so easy to not lie about, had real problems. What I did not realize until recently is that Jack Dorsey was also lying to his users.
Dorsey presents Twitter as a place where a combative and reactive conversation that would just police threats of violence and targeted abuse. But the media and Silicon Valley have compelled him to become something different: a shrinking public square, with rules increasingly defined by the loudest aggrieved voices he wants to listen to. So Louis Farrakhan can still tweet that Jews are termites, but Jesse Kelly can’t make jokes about liberal tears. A “healthier conversation” can only take place if the conservatives are slowly eradicated. There need be no justification.
There will be consequences. Twitter’s ban of Kelly prompted Instapundit, Glenn Reynolds, to quit the platform in disgust. I suspect he wasn’t the first. And I know Jesse will not be the last. That’s because Jack Dorsey is allowed to lie, and those who push the Trans agenda are allowed to lie, and if you push back against them with the truth, you eventually find you have no place on Twitter. That’s a line of delineation that in the past put you in the same category as people who were truly abusive rabble rousers. In the near future, it may just mean that you’re one of those infuriating people who still insist there are four lights.