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Don’t Quit Twitter

Don’t Quit Twitter

Fight Twitter management behavior, but don’t leave the arena.

Amid the last few days’ legitimate furor over Twitter apparently censoring conservative opinions, some conservatives have vowed to quit the medium in protest.  That is a mistake.

Legal Insurrection’s previous coverage of Twitter’s banning author Robert Stacy McCain and de-authenticating Milo Yiannopoulos – both noted critics of extreme feminism – is here and hereReason and The Federalist have also picked up the story.

As Robby Soave wrote at Reason:

Twitter is a private company, of course, and if it wants to outlaw strong language, it can. In fact, it’s well within its rights to have one set of rules for Robert Stacy McCain, and another set of rules for everyone else. It’s allowed to ban McCain for no reason other than its bosses don’t like him. If Twitter wants to take a side in the online culture war, it can. It can confiscate Milo Yiannopoulos’s blue checkmark. This is not about the First Amendment.

But if that’s what Twitter is doing, it’s certainly not being honest about it—and its many, many customers who value the ethos of free speech would certainly object. In constructing its Trust and Safety Council, the social media platform explicitly claimed it was trying to strike a balance between allowing free speech and prohibiting harassment and abuse. But its selections for this committee were entirely one-sided—there’s not a single uncompromising anti-censorship figure or group on the list. It looks like Twitter gave control of its harassment policy to a bunch of ideologues, and now their enemies are being excluded from the platform.

Robert Tracinski wrote a concise legal backgrounder on the development of free speech on the internet and the practical implications.  His analysis is worth the time for a full, considered read.

Doing him a disservice in trying to summarize, Tracinski correctly concludes that Twitter’s assertion of its legal, legitimate and essentially absolute power to dictate who may do and say what on its platform is a more or less inevitable mistake.

[Twitter’s] decision to appoint a “Trust and Safety Council” that will be “a new and foundational part of our strategy to ensure that people feel safe expressing themselves on Twitter.” Among a list of organizations described as members of the council are the Dangerous Speech Project, which has produced a set of guidelines for recognizing such “dangerous speech”—a set of criteria so vague and broad that they could encompass anything from the incitement that led the Rwandan genocide to an average afternoon on talk radio. And maybe that’s the point.

Then there is Feminist Frequency, the outlet used by Anita Sarkeesian as a platform to criticize video games for being sexist. Sarkeesian’s critics accuse her of using claims of online harassment to discredit her critics and get them kicked off of services like—you guessed it—Twitter. So when Sarkeesian and the “dangerous speech” types got appointed as Twitter’s speech police, there was reason to think they’re going to turn Twitter into a university-style “safe space” where “safety” is assured by removing advocates of opposing ideas.

No, really, that’s what a “safe space” is. As one student explained to a New York Times reporter, she needed a “safe space” after briefly hearing a conservative speak on campus because “I was feeling bombarded by a lot of viewpoints that really go against my dearly and closely held beliefs.” Safe spaces are not about freedom from harassment or physical threats. They’re about freedom from intellectual opposition.

You get the same impression when Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey proclaims that “Twitter stands for freedom of expression, speaking truth to power, and empowering dialogue. That starts with safety.”

No, actually, “freedom of expression” starts with “freedom.” It’s right there at the beginning of the phrase. But by recasting it as an issue of “safety,” Twitter de-emphasizes the “freedom” part and sets up a rationale to limit or ban its users in the name of protecting others.

And so we see, less than two weeks later, a particularly sharp-elbowed and combative critic of feminism getting his account suspended.

. . .

That’s a loss for Twitter. In trying to lure new users with promises of “safety,” the company risks destroying the sense of free-wheeling openness that attracted many of its existing users. Twitter has had a lot of trouble monetizing its user base, which is why the company’s stock is in trouble, but before it can make money from it users, it has to have users, and lots of them. Ask your friends on MySpace what happens when a social network stops being the place where everyone wants to hang out.

Tracinski concludes with five recommendations: 1) Create objective rules so “anyone can predict what will qualify as abuse;” 2) give more tools to users, beyond the mute and block options; 3) replace the Orwellian “Trust and Safety Council” with “an ideologically diverse group;” 4) Fire CEO Jack Dorsey, and; 5) get actual liberals to advocate actual free speech.

Why Conservatives Shouldn’t Leave Twitter

Despite Twitter’s shady dealings, conservatives should not leave twitter for several reasons.  The present dust-up itself is the first: if conservatives leave, nobody will be around to expose Twitter’s duplicity.  McCain’s banishment and Yiannoupolos’s de-verification created a groundswell, but if they didn’t use the medium, Twitter’s Ministry of Truth would still be operating in the shadows.

Second, along the same lines, if conservatives abandon Twitter, it just cedes the territory to liberals, again.  In the past, that has not turned out well.  Conservatives disgusted and fed-up with liberal excess fled academia, creating an echo chamber where extremism is lauded for its own sake.  After three generations or so, students and campus administrations now conspire to formalize insulating students from conservative thought under the guise of “safe spaces” and speech codes.

Don’t let Twitter or other social media go down that road.  For good or ill, these venues have vast audiences.  What is the benefit of only exposing them to a far left message?  Conservative thought properly packaged and expressed resonates because of its essential truths.  So, put those ideas out where the most people we be exposed to them.

Third, using Twitter frankly doesn’t make Twitter or its shareholders any money.  Twitter’s stock is off almost 35 points and around 60% in around ten months, largely because it doesn’t monetize its user base.  Using the service and not clicking advertisements, or purchasing advertisements or sponsored links imposes additional costs on the company in equipment and services personnel without providing any actual revenue.

Fourth, again building on the previous points, quitting Twitter just won’t work.  It didn’t work in academia, where the Left gleefully inculcated generations without the hassle of addressing dissenting opinion or contrary facts.  It won’t effect Twitter, which started this by censoring conservatives and for now has no real financial stake in whether or not conservatives use the site.

Finally, quitting Twitter is something the liberal, social justice warrior, safe spacers would do.  It’s taking your ball and going home.  It’s the easy way out.  It’s letting the Left win; letting them force conservatives out of another place they are entitled to be.

So Twitter is being a bully and not letting conservatives speak their minds.  Twitter is being unfair, obstinate, deceptive and manipulative.  Twitter is erecting a facade behind which to hide its base repression of ideas it, its constituents, its advisers, board members and buddies find distasteful.

All the more reason for a prominent Hollywood conservative like Adam Baldwin (@AdamBaldwin) to tweet like mad about Twitter’s own lies.  Make the arguments and let as many people as possible see them.  If he’s lucky, maybe he’ll get banned and it will make even more news.

Tracinski’s recommendations are a good place to start, but one stands out.  Get liberals on board, or at least make the effort to recruit them.  Free speech is the sine qua non of classical Liberalism, and Twitter picking ideological sides should not be a partisan issue.  Offer Liberals the opportunity to show their free speech bona fides and let them either get on board or instead show their repressive instincts.

Yes, follow Jonathan Levin on Twitter @JNLevin

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Good advice; I used the security settings of my Twitter profile (menu: Settings –> Security and privacy) to disable the “Personalization” and “Promoted content” options. Everyone should do the same. Also, any add that show’s up in your timeline report it as “not relevant”.

innocent bystander | February 24, 2016 at 7:33 am

What happens when you reward your enemies and ignore your allies?

    Who one’s Allies and Enemies are is dependent on which side you are on.

    Milo & Robert Stacy McCain both picked ongoing flame wars with high profile liberal feminists who have connections.

    It was as if they were daring to be sanctioned.

    In my observations, fewer Conservatives are being suspended in 2016 than in the past. I was suspended multiple times in the past while engaging in arguments with the Democrats’ “protected classes.”

    Picking fights with these liberal sleaze bags actually accomplishes nothing, just like flame wars here and elsewhere.

    I wont leave Twitter even if I am suspended again, even if I lose my 20,000+ followers. I wont quit.

    Twitter is the most unique and powerful platform I have yet to see and I’ve been on the internet since the latter 1980s before there were ‘.com’ urls.

      I agree. It’s clearly Twitter’s response to losing subscribers after the GamerGate fiasco… as more stories of abuse and harassment of minorities were reported…. Robin Williams daughter harassed until she quit… then Anonymous outed the KKK on Twitter.. Islamic terror groups using Twitter to organize. Twitter now being sued for libel and defamation, fighting not to reveal the identity of one of its libelous tweeters.

      They had a problem. They should have put measures to stop abuse in place immediately during Gamergate, years ago.

      Hate speech is not free speech. Free speech does not mean you get to threaten to stab someone with a stake in their private parts, while posting their home address online. Or joking about lynching a black person on a burning cross, while posting pictures of their children.

      It’s about time Twitter took charge of it’s space and it’s brand. I commend them. Robert McCain is no loss to anyone much less to free speech. By dumping the fringe wackos, Twitter can hopefully persuade more average, normal users to return. I say they’ve let the damage run too long, but who knows. Maybe they can turn it around.

        You obviously don’t know where I stand or you would not agree with me, LT.

        Twitter is run by Obama-hugging Liberal jackasses.

        I speak to conservatives who must navigate through liberal infested waters and survive.

        gulfbreeze in reply to LT. | February 24, 2016 at 11:26 pm

        “Hate speech is not free speech.”

        In a private marketplace like Twitter, there is no free speech. They are free to label anything they want as allowed or prohibited. The concept of any free speech existing in private services like Twitter is a fallacy.

        Evil Otto in reply to LT. | February 25, 2016 at 5:52 am

        “Hate speech is not free speech.”

        It most certainly is. Only things like direct threats and “fighting words” aren’t considered free speech. If you disagree, take it up with the Supreme Court.

      snopercod in reply to VotingFemale. | February 24, 2016 at 5:29 pm

      It was as if they were daring to be sanctioned.

      Oh, I get it. It’s like women who dress provocatively are daring to be raped. Thanks for clearing that up.

@Ulises, what are the effects of your suggested actions?

It’s letting the Left win; letting them force conservatives out of another place they have every right to be.

It’s NOT rewarding your enemies. These people are NOT simply “folks we disagree with”. Does anyone here think that Sarkeesian and her ilk would have *any* problem throwing people in gulags if she thought she could get away with it.

By staying a member of the site you are providing them with ad revenue, whether you click the ad links or not. They get paid by # of eyeballs.

    Estragon in reply to Vancomycin. | February 24, 2016 at 8:50 am

    Not true. Most ad deals are based on clicks, the gross # of eyeballs gets the ad placement but the money depends on clicks and sometimes sales.

    Better to stay and fight; block every advertiser, first sending a tweet that it’s a protest of the policy.

Pogo Hears a Who | February 24, 2016 at 8:12 am

This is a stupid waste of time. Once a company has been taken over by social justice warriors, there’s no point dealing with them any longer. They will not change. They will become more clandestine about how they ban people, but ban they will.

The CEO is fully on board, so SJW is the rule of Twitterland, unless he gets canned.

The ground was ceded once they promoted Sarkeesian. We need another platform where SJWism is banned from leadership or management. They are an infection, and they have destroyed twitter. Twitter is now just a SJW speakerphone. You want to give them eyeballs, go ahead.

Complaining and avoiding their ads will do nothing. You’d think there might be a lawyer who saw this as a gay wedding cake moment, but I guess not.

    True if they stayed private, but publicly held companies will respond to stockholders. Jack is just another hipster dufus over his head to the stockholders.

      rotten in reply to Estragon. | February 24, 2016 at 9:30 am

      The stockholders bought stock in Twitter because they want to own the power to shape the national conversation, not because they want to get steady income.

      The stockholders approve. Twitter stock when up when this became public knowledge.

Never was interested in twitter as it was a gathering of twits.

    Precisely. A platform for discussion which limits you to 140 characters or less. What a joke.

    For John Q Public, Twitter is a vehicle to shout into an echo chamber and receive tribal validation of your world view. Sycophant fans of the famous can troll their heros and villains, but minds are not changed, view points are not expanded.

    Then when something awful happens in your life, every angry thing you’ve ever said will be instantly available for those who intend to hold you on trial in the public eye… I’m totally missing the upside to this technology.

Some people are blocking the promoted ads that appear on their feed, and alerting the advertiser of their reason. I think it’s one way to hurt Twitter, especially if enough people do it.

The way to hurt them is to no longer allow yourself to be ‘sold’ as product. Quit. Quit now and do not look back. There will be a conservative alternative.

It’s not like the cold war when we sold winter wheat to the Soviet Union. Participating is not stopping a hot war nor is it keeping people from starving.

Just quit.

I made a twitter account years ago but never used it. I already spend too much time blog-hopping.

This was found in Instapundit comment section (twitter alternative committed to free speech):

Me supporting Twitter with my online presence makes about as much sense as the Jewish league holding a bake sale for the Nazi party.

Same with Facebook, Amazon and every form of MSM. The companies, their owners and most of their employees hate and despise everything I stand for.

Unfortunately with shadowbanning, you don’t know if your affected currently. I am surprised that there are no tools. Right now it’s word of mouth. The uncertainty this is causing among users, will result in a decrease in twitter. The items that can be proved, Milo’s unverifying and the banning of Stacy McCain are minor compared to the amount of twitter users. Until the numbers of shadow banning can be proved, I don’t see Twitter changing. The question is there a tool out there that can show this? There are a lot of tools there for Twitter for monitoring, but I am surprised nothing to track shadowbanning yet. This would be a great project to ask companies that supply Twitter Analytics if they can track this.

Go old school. Write your message on cash money and put it in circulation. The words TAX CHEAT on a certain treasury secretory for Obama comes to mind 😉

Good luck censoring that one!!!!!!

conservative tarheel | February 24, 2016 at 5:36 pm

never had the desire to be on Twitter ….

I like Twitchy when I’m in the mood for some fun. I do wonder if liberal twitterits hate the site though.