Earlier this month after Twitter’s unverification of Breitbart Tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos, commentators began to suspect that the social network was declaring war on conservatives.
But on closer inspection it appears that Twitter’s war on free speech is directed at a specific generation of libertarians and alternative conservative voices, many of whom are vocal and enthusiastic supporters of Donald Trump.
From Yiannopoulos’s unexplained unverification to the permanent suspension of popular Trump activist @RWSurferGirl and temporary account lock of conservative Twitter personality Linda Suhler, it seems that Twitter isn’t just attacking conservatives. Whether deliberately or not, they’re going after the social network’s most influential Trump supporters.
Also @RWSurferGirl (another Trump supporter) has been locked out. I know Trump supporters are passionate, but come on Twitter!
— Prof. Nick Flor ƒ (@ProfessorF) January 24, 2016
I'm back in. Still don't know what I did to be locked out but I'll try to not do it again. Lol
— Linda Suhler, Ph.D. (@LindaSuhler) January 24, 2016
Twitter’s suspension, ban, and locking notifications do not inform users which rule they have supposedly broken, instead simply stating that the user has somehow impinged on the terms of service. Finding out the reason an account has been punished is generally impossible.
With accounts whose greatest crime appears to be enthusiastic political support for Donald Trump, having your ability to communicate on the platform cut short and receiving an ambiguous accompanying notification can leave you feeling bewildered and confused.
In reality, it’s not so difficult to understand. You probably just had the wrong politics, according to Twitter’s increasingly barmy social justice-inspired rules.
On a social network that frequently allows death threats against political figures like Trump, hashtags like #KillAllWhiteMen and, let’s not forget, ISIS recruiters to go unpunished, it is easy to see why conservatives on the platform are starting to find it bizarre that innocent supporters of the GOP frontrunner are being hunted down by Jack Dorsey’s authoritarian leftist droogs.
“I was told months ago that if I continued to support Donald Trump, my account would be gone by Christmas,” said @RWSurferGirl in a message to Breitbart Tech. “I put the warning out to all of the big accounts… I guess we thought we were too big to fail. 7 years of being on and I have never been suspended. Now Twitter says my account will not be reinstated.”
@RWSurferGirl had over 665,000 followers when her account was suspended, and her tweets have been featured in the New York Post, the Washington Post, on Yahoo! News, and even Jimmy Kimmel Live, where President Obama read a tweet that she had sent wishing for the president to be left at a golf course on the other side of the world.
@RWSurferGirl, who wished to keep her real identity anonymous, is currently tweeting from backup accounts to a much smaller audience.
It’s not just the influential and more vocal Trump supporters either. Twitter has been removing access to the accounts of dozens of other users too, most of which have gone largely unnoticed thanks to their smaller following, making it easy for Twitter to take them down without resistance.
After calling out to those who had been ambiguously banned on Twitter, we received numerous replies. A large number of these users were either “alt-right” tweeters or associates and friends of prominent alt-right tweeters.
Jack Dorsey, a businessman whose estimated net-worth was at more than $2 billion before falling out of the three commas club recently, is a leftist whose acquaintances include Black Lives Matter leaders DeRay Mckesson and Ta-Nehisi Coates.
When he’s not busy driving Twitter’s stock value into the floor, he likes to engage in progressive activism. He follows notable progressive heroes on Twitter such as Feminist Frequency, Bernie Sanders (both accounts!), Amy Schumer, Stephen “help me check my white privilege” Colbert, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Ahmed “Clock Boy” Mohamed, Sandra Bland, Lena Dunham, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Hillary Clinton, and Spike Lee.
Indeed, by browsing the people that Dorsey follows it becomes apparent as to why Breitbart Tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos might have been unverified. Yiannopoulos has, at some point, criticised or mocked nearly every individual on the list. But even his unverification was just one of many unexplained incidents taking place against dissident conservatives on Twitter every day.
“Dissidents” is the key word. Dorsey’s not attacking all conservatives. Despite his clear political biases, he’s not quite that dumb. Establishment Republicans like GOP strategist Rick Wilson enjoy as much freedom as they want on the platform.
Wilson may be a Republican, but he is also attempting to sabotage Trump’s political career, and some days it can be hard to tell his tweets apart from a virtue-signalling Vox columnist.
As Twitter’s stock price plummets faster than Jeb Bush’s poll numbers, Twitter appears to be doubling down on its wrongheaded strategy. Users who have not been banned, suspended, or locked are now afraid of voicing their political views for fear of losing their accounts, followers, and friends on the social network.
Some of the cleverest, wittiest, and most engaging accounts on Twitter are those that poke fun at the progressive status quo. Without these insurgent new media stars, Twitter is sunk. Why doesn’t anyone at the company realise this?
Charlie Nash is a libertarian writer, memeologist, and child prodigy. When he is not writing, he can usually be found chilling at the Korova Milk Bar, mingling with the infamous. You can follow him on Twitter at @MrNashington.