There goes the neighborhood.
Starting this week, the political dumpster fire that is Twitter will be enforcing a new set of rules in the hope of protecting its users’ safety.
“Context matters when evaluating for abusive behavior and determining appropriate enforcement actions,” says Twitter, which can choose a wide range of corrective actions ranging from compelling users to remove offensive content to permanently suspending accounts. Twitter will even go as far as to note activity outside of its platform in considering violations.
While most of the boilerplate sounds innocuous, the devil is truly in the details. Once you get past the niceties, Twitter’s updated rules amount to a vague mish-mash of buzz phrases and feel-good sentiments that empowers its moderators with so much flexibility that it is easy to imagine those who are unpopular and hold inflammatory points of view being targeted and, ultimately, silenced thanks to a snowflake's delicate sensitivities.
Perhaps most egregious of all is Twitter’s new guilt-by-association policy, which states that “[y]ou also may not affiliate with organizations that — whether by their own statements or activity both on and off the platform — use or promote violence against civilians to further their causes.” So even a group you "affiliate" with (whatever that may mean) does not violate the posting rules, you could still end up on the wrong side of Twitter "justice." Where the line will be drawn is anyone's guess.
These, and other vagaries, have many expressing mixed reactions to the new rules. Some celebrated the imminent banning of “Nazis” and white supremacists and ending “hate speech” on the social media platform (you read that right, banning speech is cause for celebration, but I digress.) Surely, the same can be said for of other low-hanging fruit like ISIS and its supporters on Twitter, right?
But tougher judgment calls are sure to come, as some more controversial figures, like so-called “alt-right” advocate Gavin Macinnes and street artist Sabo, are concerned that the Twitter gatekeepers will treat theirs and other conservative points of view with a jaundice eye while giving a pass to other so-called extremists groups like BLM and Antifa, which are regularly associated with violence and destruction of property.
While Twitter doesn’t call out any specific group, you can hardly blame those who identify on Twitter as right-of-center politically for being a bit skittish. The past year has seen stories of social media censorship, including multiple reports of Facebook censorship of conservatives, including a report that Facebook staffers sought to label Donald Trump’s posts as hate speech during the 2016 campaign, not to mention the many suggestive stories of unreasonable Twitter account suspensions and tales of “Facebook jail” for espousing right-of-center views.
It remains to be seen whether Twitter will be even-handed in applying their amorphous rules to concrete situations, but what is not in dispute is that the landscape of the Twitter-verse is about to change.
Gene Berardelli is a street-smart trial attorney who, through his time as the Law Chair of the Republican Party in Brooklyn, New York, has developed a solid reputation as an election attorney successfully representing conservative candidates.
Russell Gallo is a security expert and combat veteran who attained the rank of First Sergeant in the New York Army National Guard, earning a Combat Action Badge in Iraq. Together, they host Behind Enemy Lines Radio, a national award-winning radio show and podcast broadcasting out of "The People's Republic of" New York that airs weekly on AM and FM radio stations as part of the Talk America Radio network. To read more of their reports — Click Here Now.
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