Ho hum, nothing to see here, just a US Senator demanding that a tech giant deplatform her political opposition. This was a dumb enough idea when Kamala Harris floated it with CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Monday. Harris doubled down on authoritarianism by making the demand official and putting it in writing:
In a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey dated Tuesday, Harris pointed to six tweets Trump has sent since last Friday that Harris says violated Twitter’s rules.
Harris said that Trump has used his account to “target, harass, and attempt to out the whistleblower” whose allegations about Trump’s call with the leader of Ukraine prompted Democrats to launch an impeachment inquiry.
“President Trump also published the following tweet suggesting that violence could be incited should Congress issue formal articles of impeachment against him,” she wrote, highlighting a tweet Trump sent on Sunday that read: “….If the Democrats are successful in removing the President from office (which they will never be), it will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal.” The tweet was a selective quote of a supporter on Fox News.
Harris also pointed to tweets Trump sent that said Rep. Adam Schiff should be “questions at the highest level for Fraud & Treason.”
“These are blatant threats,” Harris wrote to Dorsey, “We need a civil society, not a civil war.”
In part, Harris chose this option because she’s getting desperate to reverse her slide in the primaries. As Thomas Lifson wrote after her appearance on Anderson Cooper 360, Harris’ political career is “unraveling under the scrutiny a presidential campaign brings,” at least in terms of presidential politics. She got a momentary reprieve out of attacking Joe Biden for being a racist, which Harris utterly squandered with her Dan Quayle-esque response to Tulsi Gabbard in the next debate. What better way for Harris to look presidential than to demand that Twitter blacklist the president?
Actually, there are plenty of ways to look presidential without looking like a tyrant-in-waiting. A civil society would also consist of open dialogue and debate. Deplatforming shuts down that free-speech safety valve if exercised often enough, which then incentivizes other methods of dissent that aren’t as civilized. Why not just put the effort into criticizing the tweets and Trump directly rather than run to Twitter’s Snitch Central over them? Kamala Harris might not be doing well in the presidential election, but she has her own significant platform from which to criticize Trump over these tweets, which are wide open for such criticism.
Dorsey deserves plenty of criticism for creating Snitch Central in the first place, where the mere collection of down-twinkles from cranks deplatforms users, either temporarily or occasionally permanently. However, Dorsey can’t possibly be so dense as to lock out his biggest draw. Trump’s tweets might not be the only asset this poisonous platform has, but it’s by far the biggest. Who else constantly puts Twitter in the news every single day? Name any other person on Twitter whose lack of a tweet is news in and of itself. Dorsey can’t afford a Trump-less Twitter, and if Harris doesn’t know that much, she’s not paying attention.
That makes this demand from Harris not just absurdly authoritarian, but also likely impotent as well. Those aren’t exactly the best looks for a presidential candidate … as Democratic voters seem to have already concluded about Harris anyway.
Elizabeth Warren appears to agree on that point, scoffing at the very idea of a ban:
Asked whether Twitter should ban Pres. Trump's account after Sen. Kamala Harris called on the social media platform to do so, Sen. Elizabeth Warren simply says, "no." https://t.co/pBLBy0s3pI pic.twitter.com/nP5wPTAbz3
— ABC News (@ABC) October 2, 2019