Those who complain about an ideological bent in social-media gatekeeping have yet another piece of evidence at hand. Jesse Kelly, a contributor to The Federalist as well as a conservative talk-radio host in Houston, found himself not just suspended but banned from Twitter this weekend. What triggered this expulsion? No one actually knows, and Kelly says Twitter management never told him of any violations.
Kelly wrote about his mysterious banishment with his typically wry humor:
I try my best not to complain about the curveballs of life that come my way, but I wish people understood the tremendous burden that comes with being a clairvoyant genius who sees the future. You see, Twitter banned my account yesterday. They did not suspend it. They banned it.
I had almost 80,000 followers and those poor people are now left aimlessly wandering the social media landscape in search of a greatness they’ll never find again. Now, I don’t really care because I’m just going to start a new account and it will be even better than my last one (if that’s possible). This isn’t about me. This is about what kind of country we have become and what kind of country we want to be.
We have become a nation of sensitive losers who care about words. We care about how things “make us feel.” The exception these days is the man who just wants to put his talent and his thoughts in the marketplace of ideas and see if people will buy it.
All kidding aside, anyone wandering through the social media landscape looking for greatness would be cursed to spend an entire lifetime in futility. I enjoyed Jesse’s tweets, though, whether or not I entirely agreed with his perspective. He was occasionally provocative without being “hateful,” often funny, and usually reliable in seizing on a good issue or debate.
So why did he get banned? According to others in communication with Kelly, no one knows. All he got from Twitter, reportedly, was a form e-mail announcing his permanent banishment from the platform.
BREAKING: A Twitter spokesperson told me they were going to look into why Jesse Kelly's account was suspended.
Their official response: "We have nothing to share on this account."
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) November 26, 2018
[email protected] just shared this with me.
He’s permanently banned with no explanation. He broke no rules.
This madness has to stop. pic.twitter.com/zvwgSLg1Ri
— Sean Parnell (@SeanParnellUSA) November 26, 2018
It (mainly) goes without saying that private platforms have the right to set their own rules and to enforce them. It should also go without saying that customers and observers have the right to criticize their standards and practices, publicly and loudly if they so choose. That becomes especially true when those standards are ambiguous and the practices even more so. Twitter has not just reached those levels of ambiguity — they are fully embracing them, suggesting that their accountability only lies with themselves rather than to the people who provide their content.
Furthermore, it also suggests that Twitter chief Jack Dorsey was being less than honest, shall we say, when testifying before Congress that these decisions are made without an ideological bias. It’s difficult to prove, especially when Twitter won’t explain its actions, but the enforcement of their terms of service all seems to run in one direction. Unless Kelly said something worse than calling Jewish people “termites,” it’s tough to see any other explanation how Kelly got permanently bounced and Louis Farrakhan still has his account, for instance. Or, in another example, why Meghan Murphy got banned for arguing that “men aren’t women” while Farrakhan still has access to his account — despite Murphy being an ardent feminist.
Reason’s Robby Soave wonders why Twitter keeps making conservatives’ case for them:
Many on the right saw this as evidence that Twitter is unfairly silencing conservatives; others were neither surprised nor particularly sad to see Kelly disappear. Twitter is a private company and can ban anyone it wants, of course. But it would be helpful if the site administrators explained what exactly Kelly did to merit such draconian measures—especially if Twitter wishes to put a damper on the right-wing notion that social media censorship is a serious issue meriting federal intervention.
It’s not clear which tweets got Kelly in trouble, or if it was something else. The decision to ban him could have been the result of baseless complaints, or even an error on Twitter’s part. Kelly told other conservative writers that he was left completely in the dark, reportedly receiving the following message from Twitter: “Your account was permanently suspended due to multiple or repeat violations of the Twitter rules. The account will not restored. Please do not respond to this email as replies and new appeals for this account will not be monitored.”
If this was truly the full extent of Twitter’s communication with Kelly, then the social media platform has violated its own policy. As the writer Jeryl Bier pointed out, Twitter’s terms claim that a permanent ban will be accompanied by an explanation of which policies were violated “and which content was in violation.”
Well, yeah, and the fact that they don’t follow their own rules makes the bias case even more persuasive. The answer to this and other examples of ludicrous speech-code imposition isn’t government intervention, however. It’s recognizing that Twitter is basically a social-justice-warrior cesspool and one of the worst places for intellectual discourse possible. Even with benign management, each 280-character bite practically begs to be taken out of context by those with malice. The malignant and arrogant manner in which Dorsey and his team manage the platform make it even worse yet by pretending that all the outrage is somehow justified just because it exists at all, even if it’s nothing more than a pretense for political attacks on perceived enemies.
With that said, it’s still possible to have positive engagement on the platform, at least in the short run. If that’s of any value, stick around and stick up for those who get banned; if not, follow Instapundit’s understandable decision to depart. The biggest lesson from the social-media platforms’ onerous and one-sided interventions is that it’s still best to control your own platform in cyberspace rather than rely on the kindness of Dorseys and Zuckerbergs in the long run.