Did Twitter’s double standards help foment unrest in Minneapolis?
While hiding Trump's tweets, Twitter is still leaving potentially deadly posts online during a tense period in the city of Minneapolis. With its constant overreaching, has the platform finally bitten off more than it can chew?
It looks as if the white dove of peace has been replaced by the blue bird of war that Twitter has formally declared on free speech with its recent gagging of the president of the United States.
The angsty relationship between the platform and the POTUS hit new lows following the platform’s fact checking of Donald Trump’s tweets on Wednesday.
Twitter has now gone a step further, replacing Trump’s tweet with one which can only be viewed by clicking on a warning hiding it from view.
The warning states that: “This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence. However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible.”
I, part of the public, am indeed interested: how was Trump glorifying violence?
The charge stems from Trump’s suggestion to “send in the National Guard” following three nights of mass rioting in the city of Minneapolis after the killing of George Floyd, a 47-year-old unarmed black man, by a police officer.
The tweet concludes with the followup “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” As the city lies in flames, with infrastructure destroyed and the continual sound of gunshots in the air, it seems that the intervention of the National Guard would be welcome. Not so, according to the moderators at Twitter.
The arguable implication of Trump’s tweet is that, if the shooting starts when the looting starts, once the looting stops, so too will the shooting. Is Twitter aware that the violence is already occurring, and that Trump’s tweet is focused on quashing the violence that has enveloped the city? It is ‘glorifying’ only in the sense it would be ‘glorifying’ for a parent protecting their child.
Yet this reflects a greater trend within Twitter in general. Often, Twitter’s attempts at labelling content it says violates its terms of service have been lopsided. Whilst it is quick to label the president’s tweets as negative, it is more lacklustre in its attempts to bring down misinformation that supports its Silicon Valley-centric view of the world.
Indeed, in August 2018 Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey even admitted that the workers at the platform were more left-leaning, and two years later it seems little has changed. Only this week, it was discovered that the website’s head of site integrity, Yoel Roth, has in past tweets decried the Trump administration as being rammed with Nazis, and called the leader of his country a “racist tangerine.” Sounds like a pleasant chap.
I’m just saying, we fly over those states that voted for a racist tangerine for a reason.— Yoel Roth (@yoyoel) November 9, 2016
But is Mr Roth the type of person we would want in charge of dictating what does and does not have integrity? The scales of justice are scales for a reason – balance. This is an individual who sees Nazis in every shadow and thinks the world is just one big race war. We must ask ourselves if such an unbalanced individual is one who we want in charge of the scales. The more the platform continues to overreach into pontificating to its users, the louder and more important questions such as this become.
Which perhaps helps explain the strange case of Ice Cube’s fake news. A bogus image went viral this week, showing the cop who killed Floyd wearing a ‘MAKE WHITES GREAT AGAIN’ hat. The obviously fake picture was circulated en masse by celebrities across the platform, and garnered at least 40,000 retweets when it was shared by the rapper.
The tweet was posted with the accompanying text: “A wolf in wolves clothing. The demons are among us.” How charming. In the eyes of Twitter, these incendiary words must be chock full of integrity, because according to Breitbart, it took the platform a full twelve hours to label the dodgy content as manipulated.
The author of the piece then raises an important question: with Twitter not exercising the same vigilance it does against its ideological enemies, how many of the rioters on the streets were incentivised by this inflammatory imagery? The answer is likely to be higher than zero. Does Twitter, then, have blood on its hands? Quite possibly.
But what can be done? As Dorsey suggested, given the company is full of individuals with similar beliefs, Mr Roth would simply be replaced by another race-baiter if he were to be sacked, and this sad show would just continue.
Perhaps it's time for an exodus onto another platform. In 2018, Bloomberg reported that if Trump left Twitter he would take a fifth of its valuation with him. Indeed, there are other social media outlets out there which hold free speech close to their hearts.
Trump’s executive order and announcement of an investigation into Twitter’s biases is a big step in the right direction, but I fear it is too little, too late. The rot has sunk into the entirety of the tree, and it is probably unsaveable. If, before, the social media giant’s biases were only affecting certain people’s digital lives, now they are also endangering lives in the physical realm. Clearly, that is not a tenable business model.
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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.