If you had any hope Jack Dorsey leaving Twitter might help the platform navigate back toward enabling an open exchange of ideas, the big update his successor announced on his first day at the helm should nip that optimism in the bud.
“Beginning today,” Twitter warned, “we will not allow the sharing of private media, such as images or videos of private individuals without their consent. Publishing people’s private info is also prohibited under the policy, as is threatening or incentivizing others to do so.”
What will this mean in practice? While Twitter says “context matters” and that some “newsworthy events” will be exempted, the move is obviously aimed at the kind of undercover reporting Project Veritas is using effectively. (Otherwise they would have explicitly excepted anything of public concern.)
“So Twitter is now saying: the purest form of journalism — the investigative format where veracity is unimpeachable as the information exposed comes straight from the subjects themselves — will be removed on an ad hoc basis by a self anointed digital ministry of truth,” Veritas’ Matthew Tyrmand wrote in response.
Of course, like all of Twitter’s other content moderation policies, what constitutes “newsworthy” lies in the eyes of Twitter’s anonymous, unaccountable, uniformly far-left Thought Cops. As I’ve documented before, these “rules” are purposefully ambiguous, so Twitter’s technocrats can freely delete ideas they dislike while promoting those they prefer.
My Personal Experience of Twitter’s Censorship
My experience with the platform proves this kind of selective enforcement is the rule, not the exception. Mindful of Silicon Valley’s habit of disappearing prominent conservative outlets, I’ve always been careful to compose posts to ensure compliance with the ostensible meaning of these platform’s content policies. Despite having never broken any Twitter rules, their anonymous moderators have now nonetheless suspended me three times.
On November 18, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked about the Fifth Circuit of Appeals ruling that President Biden’s vaccine mandate on private employers egregiously violates the Constitution. I posted a clip of Psaki saying that despite their mandate being stayed, the Biden administration was still telling employers to carry on with enforcing the rule anyway.
Then I added my own commentary, which used a few facts that come straight from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, followed by an argument that was once a ubiquitous battle cry amongst the progressive set now running Silicon Valley: “My body, my choice!”
I wrote: “Realities: Covid ‘vaccines’ don’t inoculate you against the virus; they don’t stop you from spreading it; they can help mitigate worse outcomes; they can also induce adverse events. There’s no reason the federal gov’t should determine what is ultimately a private medical decision.”
The tweet accumulated hundreds of likes within a few minutes, clearly on pace for going viral. But when I logged back in a few hours later, Twitter informed me I’d broken their rules against spreading Covid “misinformation” and was thus suspended. To regain access, I had to delete the tweet; doing so also includes the stipulation, “by clicking Delete, you acknowledge that your Tweet violated the Twitter Rules.”
Twitter’s Covid misinformation rules prohibit “spreading misleading and potentially harmful information related to COVID-19.” Then, more vaguely: “Under this policy, we require the removal of content that may pose a risk to people’s health, including content that goes directly against guidance from authoritative sources of global and local public health information.”
Even under these ambiguous standards, my post clearly adhered to the rules. Rather than agreeing to their demand I confess my sins and be admitted back online, I appealed.
Appealing to the Thought Cops
“This tweet also did not violate any Twitter rules,” I wrote Twitter. “I stated four facts backed by mountains of research, CDC statements, and quotes from Dr. Fauci [director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases]. The final sentence is my opinion, based on those four facts, which happens to be shared by the vast majority of Americans (as well as, now, federal courts).”
“These Covid vaccines are not actual vaccines with attenuated virus that induce inoculation,” my appeal continued. I then quoted the CDC: “Data were added from studies published since the last update that further characterize reduced COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness against asymptomatic and mild symptomatic infections with the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2.”
A year-long study recently published in The Lancet medical journal acknowledged these vaccines don’t stop the spread of Covid: “People inoculated against Covid-19 are just as likely to spread the delta variant of the virus to contacts in their household as those who haven’t had shots, according to new research.”
It’s also an objectively factual statement that these “vaccines” can induce adverse events, as the Centers for Disease Control, Food and Drug Administration, and the vaccine manufacturers themselves all acknowledge. “Adverse events described on this page have been reported,” a CDC advisory says, going on to list five “serious adverse events of interest,” including death.
Finally, I wrote, “there is no reason the federal gov’t should determine what is ultimately a private medical decision.” This, of course, is an opinion, and last I checked having opinions about the relationship between people and the government is protected speech. This particular opinion also happens to be shared by the majority of Americans.
Federal courts have also recently stated that federal vaccine mandates violate the U.S. Constitution. As the Fifth Circuit recently wrote: “The public interest is also served by maintaining our constitutional structure and maintaining the liberty of individuals to make intensely personal decisions according to their own convictions—even, or perhaps particularly, when those decisions frustrate government officials.”
Re-reading my tweet makes clear I take no stand on whether people should get vaccinated. I am only defending Americans’ constitutional right to retain this decision for themselves. Beyond the Constitution, bodily autonomy is a human right, and should we lose it, a far-reaching precedent will be set that empowers the federal government to make determinations regarding individuals’ dietary habits, their use of prescription medicines, the privacy of their medical records, their reproductive health, and so much more. The power would be virtually unlimited.
Jack Dorsey’s Defense
Last November, Twitter’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, testified before Congress that: “Content moderation rules and their potential effects, as well as the process used to enforce those rules, should be simply explained and understandable by everyone. We believe that companies like Twitter should publish their moderation process. We should be transparent about how cases are reported and reviewed, how decisions are made, and what tools are used to enforce.”
Dorsey’s claims are far from Twitter’s actual conduct. Upon appealing, I received a notification minutes later that “Twitter Support” verified I broke the rules, without any kind of reference to the text of my appeal.
As it wasn’t clear they had actually read it, I submitted it again. Then after not hearing back, I submitted another appeal. Over the course of two weeks, I submitted at least three appeals; the only reply I received throughout was the apparent auto-reply indicating Twitter Support verified I violated the “Twitter Rules.”
Dorsey also testified, “We have worked to build better in-app notices where we have removed Tweets for breaking our Rules. We also communicate with both the account that reports a Tweet and the account that posted it with additional detail on our actions.”
Again, I can vouch that none of this happens. I’ve explained in precise detail how my tweet fell well within the bounds of Twitter’s rules. Twitter refuses to explain why they believe otherwise. Worse, after forcing me offline, I had followers tell me Twitter had “unfollowed” them from my account.
In preventing people like me from accessing Twitter despite plainly qualifying under their own terms of service — and in failing to provide the kind of communication Dorsey testified under oath occurs in situations like mine — Twitter is arguably engaging in fraud, telling the public one thing while engaging in the opposite.
Much like the corporate news media, social media companies now operate as the communications wing of the Democratic Party, while continuing to be regulated like a public utility. This indemnifies them against content-related litigation even as they invest ever greater energy into carefully curating what appears on their platforms.
Ultimately this enables them to create a false sense of what’s “trending” or “viral” and what the “consensus” thinks, and protect notable personalities from criticism. It’s information warfare in service of progressive politics. Or, as Matt Taibbi recently put it, “What was supposed to be a historically democratizing technological tool [has] transformed into a dystopian force for censorship and control.”
Twitter’s demarcations around what’s allowed and what’s not are intentionally fuzzy, so that its faceless censors are empowered to decide for themselves. As conservatives like me know, that’s simply a pretext for carrying out shadow banning, frequent censorship, and permanent bans.
Recall that these enforcement actions come at the request of the Biden administration, which has made clear it wants social media companies to erase information they deem unhelpful. This enables the state to curtail our rights without amending the Constitution. It’s a disease rotting our republic, and it’s only getting worse.