Yesterday, Twitter made a massive change to its policies that harms free speech. The company stated that they would begin pushing “bad tweets” further down Twitter timelines, hiding communications from certain users based on what they tweet. BuzzFeed News has the scoop.
For those who view Twitter's shift in policy as inconsequential at first glance, let me unpack this announcement point by point.
First of all, I have no idea what “game the system” means. It’s likely just a set of behaviors that Twitter would prefer you didn’t adopt. It’s so broad as to give Twitter near unlimited freedom to hide the tweets they arbitrarily choose to.
Twitter also says it will censor tweets from people who are “acting like a jerk.” Again, this term is astoundingly broad. Does it cover just cyberbullying? Will Twitter look for this "jerk-like" behavior on its own?
Now we reach the more obvious nonsense: if you tweet at a bunch of people you don’t follow, Twitter considers that suspicious. Sure, bots and trolls do that, but so do normal people. And many people create multiple Twitter accounts from the same IP address in order to tweet as their dog or create a social following for their small business.
It’s the last signal of so-called suspicion that’s so troublesome, though. If Twitter finds that one user has violated its extensive terms of service – an agreement that includes a prohibition on “hateful conduct” – every single one of that user’s followers is now under suspicion as well.
What’s most bewildering about this comically overbroad announcement is its implication that Twitter knows better than its users. Anyone on Twitter can block, mute, or report anyone else. Rather than allow users to police themselves, however, Twitter will independently determine based on some set of nebulous criteria which tweets do not even deserve to be seen.
This sort of conversation-killing behavior from a private company whose business is conversations should enrage every free person. Given the left-leaning makeup of Twitter’s draconian Trust and Safety Council and the wide-open wording of this latest directive, I have no doubt in my mind that Twitter will now attempt to silence conservative voices. They have now revealed a facially neutral way to do so.
I expect Twitter will be far more lax to hateful tweets from progressives, defending their insane vitriol against President Trump or Israel or gun owners or pro-life marches or Christians. In fact, even if Twitter told me their ambiguous policy of content policing would be applied evenly to both sides of the culture war, I wouldn’t believe them.
Twitter likely feels secure in making such chilling changes. They’re betting conservatives won’t leave in droves, or at all. They can silence the right-wing voices they choose, affecting the national conversation simply by labeling tweets from pundits like Candace Owens, Ben Shapiro, or even Charles Murray “bad tweets" and making it more difficult for their followers to see their messages.
This blatant attempt to stifle speech should place free Americans on high alert. As the most likely targets of Twitter’s wrath, conservatives should begin to fund and construct an ark to withstand the oncoming flood of Twitter’s paternalism. Once Twitter inevitably begins to censor people based on their politics, we should take what we can carry, board the boat, and wait out the storm.