As we previously discussed, Twitter has become a lightening rod for the free speech community — repeatedly accused of content-based censorship and a liberal bias. Twitter was recently accused of a departure from the policy of unfettered free speech in the filtering of negative comments against President Barack Obama. Then Twitter banned Milo Yiannopoulos in a very disturbing move against a conservative speaker. Now, Twitter is back in the news targeting another conservative. After releasing two viral videos, Project Veritas Founder and President James O’Keefe was barred from access to his Twitter account for 12 hours (with review for a permanent ban). Twitter again appears to have little explanation for suspending another conservative other than the content of his speech.
Shortly before his suspension, O’Keefe released a video showing Democratic Election Commissioner Alan Schulkin discussing voter fraud and making damaging comments concerning the election. The next day he released a video showing a Hillary Clinton staffer making embarrassing comments including how he could rip up Republican voter registration forms and not be reprimanded.
O’Keefe was only given notice reading “Hi James O’Keefe,Your account @JamesOKeefeIII has been locked. Please go to Twitter now to fix the issue with your account.” However, there was not explanation and only a reference to the rules page. Twitter has been previously accused to showing little concern for the due process of those banned from its site, including full explanations for cutting off users.
Once again, I find the pattern of suspensions of Twitter to be highly problematic. Twitter is an important site for social media and free speech. I hold no brief for O’Keefe and I have not watched his work. I realize that he is controversial and we have discussed past controversies. However, Twitter has developed a reputation among its critics for speech regulation with a particular penchant for cutting off conservatives.
Twitter later revealed that it was the second video of the Clinton staffer that was deemed to be “harassment” because he is shown saying “I think the bar of acceptable conduct in this campaign is pretty low. To be fired I would have to grab Emma’s ass twice and she would have to complain about it, I would have to sexually harass someone.” However, there is no allegation that the tape contains false information. I remain concerned over the lack of a clear rule. Would any undercover videotape be barred under this rule? Was there something about this videotape that distinguishes it from other embarrassing undercover stories?
What do you think?