When news broke today that Ed and Brian Krassenstein from #Resistance fame had their Twitter accounts permanently banned, reactions from both sides were predictable. Those on the left pointed at the event and said, “see there’s no Twitter conspiracy against conservatives.” Meanwhile, conservatives’ reactions were mixed between thinking it was Twitter’s attempt to balance things out so they don’t get sued all the way up to rejoicing that the site may have finally learned its lesson.
None of this is true. According to Twitter, they were banned for using bots and paid engagement.
“The Twitter Rules apply to everyone,” a Twitter spokesperson said in a statement. “Operating multiple fake accounts and purchasing account interactions are strictly prohibited. Engaging in these behaviors will result in permanent suspension from the service.”
While the brothers will go down in Twitter history as a rare example of prominent progressives getting banned, the reality is their removals from the site were economic. That’s rarely the case for conservatives who get banned for hateful speech or whatever the latest label is for telling people to “learn to code.” In fact, I don’t recall a single conservative getting banned for paid engagement or bot use. It happens, I’m sure, but as far as I can recall it hasn’t been the reason for any major political accounts to get the ax.
Either way, I oppose this and nearly all bannings that aren’t the result of spam, illegal activity like doxxing, spreading malware, or porn. If they want to stop bots and paid promotions, they should be catching these accounts and sending them stern messages. They can reduce their visibility. But if someone artificially inflates their engagement without using Twitter ads, they can and should be dealt with in ways that fall short of getting banned. Same holds true for most “hateful speech” that seems to unfairly target conservatives. Again, as long as the speech used is not breaking the law, it should be allowed.
Or, Twitter could simply establish that it’s a content site and not simply a platform. They would lose their protections, but at least they would be in line with the letter of the law. As it stands, they get platform protections while acting to police activities that are against the notion of free speech and therefore should not be allowed to continue getting platform protections.
Speech is free or it isn’t.
Comparing the Krassenstein’s permanent suspensions to any of the recent prominent conservative account suspensions is invalid. They weren’t banned for what they said. They were banned for bots and paid promotion. Conservatives are still being targeted.