Twitter Summons “The Birdwatchers” In Expanding Campaign Against “Misinformation”

Twitter Logo

With much fanfare (and catchy background music) Twitter has launched the Birdwatch program, a platform that seeks to enlist the “community” to identify and comment on misinformation contained in tweets.  The company will initially select 1,000 such “Birdwatchers” in its monitoring of information exchanged on its once neutral platform.  Not surprisingly, many of us are not thrilled by the program. While the programs does not allow direct removal of tweets, it is clearly designed to flag tweets that the majority views as misleading. That can then be used by Twitter to further support its expanding censorship of information on the Internet.

The selected Birdwatchers will at least initially post on a  public Birdwatch website as opposed to the targeted twitter account.

Adding a “community-based” system is little improvement over a purely “corporate-based” system of censorship. Twitter still maintains that it will regulate speech and this new platform effectively invites the community to help identify those tweets worthy of being flagged for possible removal or bans. The program will also likely encourage campaigns to add such flags on the Birdwatch site in order to pressure Twitter to ban opposing viewpoints.  It is not clear who will watch the Birdwatchers in that sense.

The suspicion that this system is meant to enhance Twitter’s censorship policies is hard to avoid. After all, Twitter users can already flag what they view as misinformation by responding directly to a Tweet or using their own account to do so. This is an effort to build a consensus in a community that could be used to support the company in what is rumored to be plans for “much bigger” moves on speech regulation. Many critics are not satisfied with being able to respond to opposing viewpoints with their own views. They want to silence opposing viewpoints and control information exchange. Just recently, former Facebook executive Alex Stamos told CNN’s Brian Stelter that we must find new ways to cut off “conservative influencers” including cable news: “We have to turn down the capability of these Conservative influencers to reach these huge audiences… There are people on YouTube for example that have a larger audience than daytime CNN.”

For free speech advocates, the use of such community-based systems is a familiar method of speech curtailment and controls. Popular speech does not need protection.  The key to free speech is the protection of speech that a community or the majority does not favor.

Notably, when Dorsey appeared before the Senate to apologize for the blackout on the Hunter Biden scandal before the election as a mistake, Democratic senators demanded more censorship.  Dorsey agreed that “misleading information, as you are aware, is a large problem. It’s hard to define it completely and cohesively.” Instead of then raising concerns over censoring views and comments on the basis for such an amorphous category, Senator Chris Coons pressed him to expand the categories of censored material to prevent people from sharing any views that he considers “climate denialism.”

One of the loudest voices for censorship has been Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal who seemed to take the opposite meaning from Twitter admitting that it was wrong to censor the Biden story. Blumenthal said that he was “concerned that both of your companies are, in fact, backsliding or retrenching, that you are failing to take action against dangerous disinformation.” Accordingly, he demanded an answer to this question:

“Will you commit to the same kind of robust content modification playbook in this coming election, including fact checking, labeling, reducing the spread of misinformation, and other steps, even for politicians in the runoff elections ahead?”

“Robust content modification” has a certain Orwellian feel to it. It is not content modification. It is censorship. If the Democratic party is going crackdown on free speech, it should admit to being the party of censorship and join those who have insisted “China is right.”

I am an unabashed Internet originalist. I have long opposed the calls for censorship under the pretense of creating “an honest Internet.”  We have have been discussing how writerseditorscommentators, and academics have embraced rising calls for censorship and speech controls, including President-elect Joe Biden and his key advisers. The erosion of free speech has been radically accelerated by the Big Tech and social media companies. The level of censorship and viewpoint regulation has raised questions of a new type of state media where companies advance an ideological agenda with political allies.

As I have previously written, we are witnessing the death of free speech on the Internet.  What is particularly concerning is the common evasion used by academics and reporters that this is not really a free speech issue because these are private companies. The First Amendment is designed to address government restrictions on free speech. As a private entity, Twitter is not the subject of that amendment. However, private companies can still destroy free speech through private censorship. I have previously discussed this aspect of speech controls as the “Little Brother problem.” President Trump can be chastised for converting a “Little Brother” into a “Big Brother” problem. However, that does alter the fundamental threat to free speech.  This is the denial of free speech, a principle that goes beyond the First Amendment. Indeed, some of us view free speech as a human right.

Consider racial or gender discrimination. It would be wrong regardless if federal law only banned such discrimination by the government. The same is true for free speech. The First Amendment is limited to government censorship, but free speech is not limited in the same way. Those of us who believe in free speech as a human right believe that it is morally wrong to deny it as either a private or governmental entity.  That does not mean that there are not differences between governmental and private actions. For example, companies may control free speech in the workplaces. They have a recognized right of free speech. However, the social media companies were created as forums for speech.  Indeed, they sought immunity on the false claim that they were not making editorial decisions or engaging viewpoint regulation.  No one is saying that these companies are breaking the law in denying free speech. We are saying that they are denying free speech as companies offering speech platforms.

That is why these seemingly harmless Birdwatchers are a concern for some of us. They are being added as a community component to an expanding system of Internet censorship. As they watch their neighbors and Twitter watches them, free speech will further decline on the Internet.

162 thoughts on “Twitter Summons “The Birdwatchers” In Expanding Campaign Against “Misinformation””

  1. The social-media monopolies–Facebook, Google, Twitter–should be either broken up or regulated with a very heavy hand (my preference is to break ’em up). They do not allow even respectful freedom of speech from those who are right-of-center.

  2. Facebooks birdwatchers have been hard at work:

    https://pjmedia.com/news-and-politics/tyler-o-neil/2021/01/26/disagreeing-with-bidens-transgender-policy-is-incitement-now-facebook-says-so-n1411958

    Robert Gagnon is an evangelical moral theologian. He is 62 years old, is about 5’7″ tall, weighs about 120# soaking wet, and favors oversized bow ties. His entire public presence consists of academic articles, academic monographs, academic lectures, and general interest pieces derived from them. This is the man ‘inciting violence’ in Mark Zuckerberg’s looking-glass world.

  3. Censorship, In Russia it is Putin, in China it is Xi, Cuba it is Castro, Venezuela it is Maduro, in Nazi Germany it was Hitler.
    Will we have one like them in the US? Not just Dorsey but those in public office that have suggested the same. scary times.

        1. “Enemies of the Deep State…” was written by John and Nisha Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute.

          “Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. “

    1. Tulsi Gabbard not only does not speak the truth, she, if you remember correctly, can hardly utter a sentence or attend a debate. Free speech is just that, but free lies should and will be censored. “Just the facts Mam, Just the facts.”

  4. “Consider racial or gender discrimination. It would be wrong regardless if federal law only banned such discrimination by the government. The same is true for free speech.”

    And the same is true for free association. Forced integration, public or private, is as bad as forced censorship.

  5. https://nypost.com/2021/01/26/patrick-leahy-set-to-preside-over-impeachment-hospitalized/

    Sen. Patrick Leahy, tapped to preside over Trump impeachment, hospitalized

    WASHINGTON — Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the lawmaker tapped to preside over President Trump’s impeachment trial, has been hospitalized, his spokesman said.
    The 80-year-old Senate president pro tempore was taken to a local hospital and is under observation after he complained that he did not feel well after overseeing the swearing-in of senators as jurors in the trial earlier Tuesday.

    “This evening, Senator Leahy was in his Capitol office and was not feeling well,” Leahy spokesman David Carle said in a statement.

    “He was examined in the Capitol by the Attending Physician. Out of an abundance of caution, the Attending Physician recommended that he be taken to a local hospital for observation, where he is now, and where he is being evaluated,” he said.

    Leahy at times sounded muffled and out of breath during the proceedings.

      1. He could have retired with a satisfactory pension 15 years ago. Two of the three Senators who’ve sat along side him in Congress retired at 75 and 72 respectively (the third is the antique Sanders, who is also due a handsome pension after 30 years as a federal employee). If he wants to keep busy, I don’t doubt there’s an NGO in Burlington that would hire him (don’t imagine he could return to law practice after a hiatus of 45 years).

        1. I met Leahy at a antiques store in Bowling Green, VA. He was with his Senate pal, Chris Dodd. Dodd was gracious, Leahy was a prig.

  6. I just got this and was asked to help fill in the details missing. I figured there were some on this blog that can help.
    ——

    Joe Biden’s Political Career. By year.

    1973 Biden enters politics…
    1974
    1975
    1976
    1977 *Biden fights to keep schools segregated because in his own words, “allowing blacks to integrate would create a racial jungle”… fact check me….
    1978
    1979
    1980
    1981
    1982
    1983 *BIDEN TAXES Social Security
    1984
    1985
    1986
    1987
    1988 Ran for president but had to end his campaign after getting busted for plagiarism…
    1989
    1990 Hang on almost there…
    1991
    1992
    1993 *BIDEN TAXES Social Security = AGAIN*
    1994 *Biden writes the “Stop and Frisk” law which is what blacks blame for “systemic racism” today. This law took millions of black men from their homes and transplanted them into prison. Way to go Joe. This was Biden’s biggest accomplishment in 47 years of elected office. Factcheck me…it’s true.
    1995
    1996
    1997 Almost, not yet…
    1998
    1998
    1999
    2000
    2001
    2002
    2003
    2004
    2005
    2006
    2007
    2008 Calls Obama the first “articulate” and “clean” mainstream African-American
    2009
    2010
    2011
    2012
    2013
    2014
    2015
    2016
    2017
    2018
    2019
    2020 NOW HE SAYS HE’S READY TO FIX THE COUNTRY

  7. All the lies of the Joe Friday’s and his aliases along with a whole host of leftists and their aliases are now being proven untrue with documentation. These guys are Stupid and don’t even remember what they post from one month to the next. They feed off of trying to make others prove their arguments when they should be told exactly what they are, stupid.
    =====

    “Declassified! The Russia informant transcript the FBI didn’t want Americans to see
    In secretly recorded talks with informer Stefan Halper, Carter Page dispelled key Russia collusion allegations before FISA warrant was even approved.

    Four days before the FBI secured a surveillance warrant against him in fall 2016, Trump campaign adviser Carter Page repeatedly knocked down the key allegations at the heart of the Russia collusion investigation while talking to a government informant who was wearing a wire.

    Page’s unwitting statements of innocence to informer Stefan Halper were never shared with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court before it approved four warrants authorizing a full year of surveillance of Page’s communications.”

    Continued with documentation of the records at: https://justthenews.com/accountability/russia-and-ukraine-scandals/declassified-russia-informant-transcript-fbi-didnt-want?utm_source=daily-newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter

    1. All Americans are worried for good reason.

      https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-01-23/-dark-money-helped-pave-joe-biden-s-path-to-the-white-house

      ‘Dark Money’ Helped Pave Joe Biden’s Path to the White House

      President Joe Biden benefited from a record-breaking amount of donations from anonymous donors to outside groups backing him, meaning the public will never have a full accounting of who helped him win the White House.

      Biden’s winning campaign was backed by $145 million in so-called dark money donations, a type of fundraising Democrats have decried for years. Those fundraising streams augmented Biden’s $1.5 billion haul, in itself a record for a challenger to an incumbent president.

      That amount of dark money dwarfs the $28.4 million spent on behalf of his rival, former President Donald Trump. And it tops the previous record of $113 million in anonymous donations backing Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012.

      1. If the First Amendment stands in the way of meaningful campaign finance reform that genuinely limits the billionaire plutocracy, then, by God,

        the First amendment may need an amendment!

        We can’t expect the SCOTUS to fix Citizens United in the next decade. It would take forever. Congress should do its job.

        Except guess who got the last round of the juice from the billies. yep. SO dont hold your breath

        Saloth Sar

  8. TESTING, TESTING, TESTING:

    “China also issued a new law permitting its “coastguards to launch pre-emptive strikes without prior warning” on any foreign ship that might enter disputed waters that China would like to consider its own.

    Chinese Communist Party Chairman Xi Jinping is certain further to test the mettle of the new Biden Administration within the context of China’s “great power rivalry” with the United States. ”

    https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/16999/china-test-biden

  9. Andy Ngo, video journalist who covered Seattle ANTIFA, flees to London after ANTIFA death threats nationwide, receive no proper investigation from authorities.

    Andy Ngo has good reason to fear, in 2019 he was beaten severely and hospitalized by ANTIFA attackers.

    1. This is at the very heart of the matter. We did not display Biden/Harris support signs in our yard during the past campaign. The reason: We were afraid that we would be targeted by vandals who might destroy or damage our property. I think there were a lot of us sharing that thought trend. 7 million of us in fact. Now, our President, senators and representatives are living that fear with death threats being a constant in their lives. How the hell did we get here? How is this right? The “Right” needs to back off and reconsider. But with a leader like trump, I fear we are hell bent on destruction and death.

  10. On a lawyer to lawyer basis, your analysis is wrong. Free speach relates to restrictions imposed by public authorities not to privately owned compagnies. This is a contractual issue.

    Happy to continue discussions on impeachment. There is a precedent dating back 1870.

  11. Vladimir Putin Wants To Work With A Joe Biden Administration- ‘Dems Have A Shared Embrace Of Soviet Ideology’

    OMG!!! Bwahahahahahaahahahah

    🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

    As reported by Bloomberg News:

    While Putin praised President Donald Trump for improving relations, he was prepared to work with Biden if he won the U.S. election.

    He cited Biden’s support for new arms reduction treaties — such as the lopsided New START under President Barack Obama.

    Putin added, approvingly, that Biden’s Democrats shared similar ideals to those Russia embraced under Soviet communism:

    The Russian leader even argued that the values of the Democrats were similar to those of the Soviet Communist Party, of which he said he’d been a member for 18 years. The Soviet regime’s longtime ties with the Black community in the U.S. could also be a basis for links to the Democrats, he said.

    “Equality, brotherhood, what’s wrong with that?” Putin said. “There is some kind of ideological basis for establishing contacts with a representative of the Democratic Party.”

Leave a Reply to Diogenes Cancel reply