Twitter Accused (Again) Of Violating Free Speech Principles

Twitter Logo220px-Dick_CostoloAs we previously discussed, Twitter has become a lightening rod for the free speech community — repeatedly accused of content-based censorship and a liberal bias. Now Twitter is again being accused of a departure from the policy of unfettered free speech in the filtering of negative comments against President Barack Obama. The culprit of this latest violation is former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo who in 2015 allegedly ordered employees to remove abusive or offensive replies to President Obama during a Q & A session.


While Twitter and Costolo deny the story as inaccurate, they have refused repeatedly requests from the media to explain what precisely was inaccurate. They also failed to respond to requests from BuzzFeed before it ran the original story.

BuzzFeed cites former Twitter staffers who say that Costolo ordered them to deploy an algorithm to filter out abusive language directed at Obama. Staffers are described as upset by the decision. Theres is also an allegation that the site removed comments directed against Caitlyn Jenner.

It is bizarre that Twitter has not responded in detail to the story to refute the allegations. It was the same dismissive response shown earlier in the elimination of the account of Milo Yiannopoulos.  The story may be inaccurate but, given Twitter’s past controversies, the onus is on the company to establish the facts. It is clear that Twitter is viewed by a wide array of users as hostile to the free speech principles that once defined the company.  Twitter appears little concerned over these misgivings and appears even less inclined to take steps to guarantee an open and free forum for the exchange of ideas.

28 thoughts on “Twitter Accused (Again) Of Violating Free Speech Principles

  1. “Twitter has been struggling for some time, there’s no doubt about that. However, at this point, the most recent news makes the company look desperate at best.

    Yesterday (8/9/2016), a large chunk of office space at the company’s headquarters went up for sublease. In fact, the company has listed 183,642 square feet of office space for lease.

    According to brokerage data, the space offered by the company is the single largest sublease currently available in San Francisco.”

  2. I agree with Olly. Just use a different app. The Twitter employees who complained about having to censor tweets should seize this as a financial opportunity. Presumably they have the technical knowledge to start a competing company – or can network with those who do. A new start-up by the name of Yakker or whatever, devoted to free speech would create a lot of interest and attract investors.

  3. The only entity that can truly violate free speech rights is the government. As a private company Twitter may have a policy to respect free speech rights. But they also have the right and responsibility as a private company to limit speech that would open them up to liability under hate speech or defamation laws. They have the right and responsibility to limit actionable hate speech and slander. In addition Unlike the Government but like a radio station or newspaper Twitter has the rights of a free press, by that is meant… the right to decide what content will be published by their system. Prohibiting vile hate-filled abusive language to support their policy to avoid Bullyinng, for example is their right and from my point of view…their responsibility.

  4. “As a private company Twitter [has] …the right to decide what content will be published by their system.”

    But if they are a Christian bakery, they must make a cake for a gay wedding, right?

    • The bakery example is not an issue of Free Speech. Or freedom of the press. Rather it is an issue of public accommodations and public discrimination. Businesses offering services to the public legally prohibited from discriminating agains prospective customers on the basis of race religion ethnic origin sexual orientation etc. If Twitter refused Twitter accounts because the applicant was gay , Black etc they would be subject to the same laws as the bakery.

  5. The USG and corporations are completely entwined at this point. They act as one entity, each serving the others’ interests. The DNC leaks were clear evidence of this. As many people know, in NYC during the height of the occupy movement, police and federal agencies worked out of GS NY headquarters. All the most sophisticated monitoring equipment and techniques for stopping the protesters (to include willingness to use snipers to kill some of those who were perceived as leaders were in place there and strategized there-a perfect corporate/government operation.

    Thus we err by believing that corporations are separate from the current govt. They are not. One more example. Private mercenary firms give orders to the US army. They help run JSOC’s drone program which has even less accountability than Obama’s own personal droning apparatus.

    Twitter just recently censored DNC leaks. FB took down links to wikileaks and censored the content. If these companies did not act in concert with the govt. then I would say they should be boycotted and replaced. Unfortunately, they are part govt. entities. As such, they should follow the law required of any other governmental agency.

    As in reality, the govt. itself does not follow the law, the best we can do is call them on their censorship, boycott them as Autumn suggested and try to create other vehicles of communication which do not engage in censorship. What we cannot do is turn a blind eye to the entwinement of these entities and the apparatus of state power and control over our population.

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