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26 Oct, 2017 22:04

‘I’m looking to sue’: Black activist says Twitter banned her as ‘Russian bot’

Among the 201 Twitter accounts suspended from the platform for “Russian interference” in the 2016 US election was an African-American activist from Atlanta. Now she has come forward, telling RT she may sue the company for the unjustified suspension.

Twitter banned the 201 accounts in September, citing “prohibitions against spam” and other rule violations. Additionally, the company found 179 accounts that were “linked or related” to those banned by Facebook. Multiple media outlets, including Reuters, the New York Times and CNN, called the accounts “Russia-linked.”

RT has spoken to a banned Twitter user, who says she was swept up in the anti-Russia operation.

RT independently confirmed the identity of the owner of the Twitter account @PoliticsPeach, who asked to be identified by the name she previously used on the platform, Charlie Peach. RT confirmed that Peach is an African-American woman based in Atlanta, Georgia.

Peach joined Twitter in 2010 but didn’t start tweeting for about two years. The earliest cache of her account that RT found was in late March 2014, at which point Peach had well under 3,000 followers. The final cache available before her account was suspended from Twitter is from September 1, 2017 and shows Peach with more than 13,800 followers.

“This could upend my personal life,” she said. “I don’t know how far deep it goes with these people. But I don’t want to get on an airplane and my passport causes issues because of this.”

After her account was banned, Peach reached out to a friend at Twitter.

“She gets back to me last Saturday, crying and distraught... saying this person said I need to stay far away from you, that you’re listed as a Russian bot or Russian operative,” Peach told RT. “Even my IP address is shut down. I cannot even make another Twitter account from my IP. I tried with two phone numbers and created two different email accounts, with totally different Twitter handles and names, and it walked me through the entire process until it said your account is suspended.

Before publishing a blog post about the ban on September 28, Twitter briefed Congress on its contents. The company said that, of the 450 “Russia-linked accounts” identified by Facebook, 22 had corresponding Twitter accounts. Additionally, Twitter found 179 accounts that were “linked or related” to those banned by Facebook. None of the 201 suspended accounts were advertisers on the platform.

“I was banned September 16, the same day that this girl they call Crystal Johnson,” Peach said. Johnson was one of the accounts Twitter accused of acting on behalf of the Kremlin by tweeting messages about Black Lives Matter.

“I always felt she was a bot. She didn’t interact with anyone, so I think she was automated.”  Peach told RT. “Now a Russian bot? That seems strange to me. I don’t know about that. But she only tweeted positive information about black people.”

Peach was "in the middle of a conversation" when she was banned. “I hadn’t said or done anything, I hadn’t harassed or threatened anyone, and I was getting harassed and threatened all the time by people in Hillary’s camp.”

Last year, Peach sent Twitter her personal information in an effort to get the coveted blue check, the service’s mark of authenticity.

“I had to send my ID, my birth certificate etc. They know who I am,” she told RT. “I’m not just some random person on Twitter. I’m have a background.”

Peach got on Twitter because she was “really big” into politics. Her career as an activist has included working with a number of political campaigns in Atlanta, including one of the mayors and Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. She also did work for a Bernie Sanders campaign surrogate.

“I’ve been in politics for a long time. Twitter gave me an opportunity to speak on issues of political importance,” she said.

Peach supported Senator Sanders in the Democratic primaries. She was blocked by candidate Donald Trump after she blasted his claims that President Barack Obama was not an American national.

Asked whether she’s ever even met a Russian, Peach said, “never in my life.” Nor has she ever been to Moscow. Moreover, even in her political work, she says she was “never paid by anyone” to use social media.

“What I’ve been trying to say to my people,” Peach told RT, “is we have been lied to, manipulated, they’ve played upon fears of black people and racism and everything else. They’re using Trump now, this boogeyman. Trump didn’t create racism. He didn’t create any of these things we’re dealing with that have always been in play. But the media has exploited them.

Earlier this week, the Washington Post revealed that Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the DNC paid for the notorious Steele Dossier, which claimed that the Russian government was blackmailing President Trump using compromising material. Louise Mensch, a former British MP turned-anti-Russia activist, was a primary promoter of the Steele Dossier.

Peach says Mensch had asked her to write for her new blog. “And I refused she because she wanted me to attack Black Lives Matter,” Peach said. “I’m anti-Black Lives Matter because of what I think their overall purpose is. But I’m not against blackness or black people trying to liberate [themselves]. I’m not doing that. But she’s a complete nut.”

Her Twitter ban is a continuation of the corporate suppression of information, she said.

“This whole suppression of voices in using this Russian scare tactic is just way too far. In my lifetime I’ve never seen anything like this. I don’t remember the McCarthyism era, obviously, because I’m not that old, but my parents talked to me about it and things that were occurring at the time,” Peach told RT. “It ensures that the 1 percent continues to have a narrative and that anyone who opposes that are no longer allowed to speak. You look at CNN, MSNBC ‒ they gave us the Iraq war. This is what they do. The main media houses that run everything are the ones that continue to push the propaganda and make sure we’re shut down.”

Shortly after Trump’s upset victory over Clinton, whom the media gave a 98-percent chance of becoming president, accusations began that Trump must have “colluded” with Russia and that the Kremlin somehow “hacked” the election. Once evidence of that failed to materialize, the accusations morphed to far more nebulous charges of “influence” and “sowing division,” without any particular candidate or ideology in mind. No proof was offered for this either, but the mainstream media took it on faith.

“What’s old is now new again,” Peach wrote in a Medium post addressing her Twitter ban. “Dixiecrats are using their old tactics of Communism that they used before they ‘supposedly’ transitioned into the now Democratic Party. Democrats are showing us all who they really are and have always been.”

She told RT that the experience has left her bitter about the influence of corporations on the media world.

“I’m not a fake person. I’m not a bot, whatever these people are trying to imply. It’s driving me batty and I’m looking to sue,” she said.

Twitter has not responded to RT’s requests for comment.

By Alexander Rubinstein