Monday, Ed wrote about Twitter’s decision to ban conservative talk show host Jesse Kelly from its platform for reasons unknown. Though the reason for the removal of the account was a mystery, Twitter did clarify that the suspension was permanent. A message sent to him said simply “This account will not be restored.”
.@JesseKellyDC 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
Today, Kelly’s account was restored and Twitter released a new statement saying, “The account was temporarily suspended for violating the Twitter Rules and has been reinstated.”
BREAKING: Twitter spokesperson says regarding Kelly's suspension:
"The account was temporarily suspended for violating the Twitter Rules and has been reinstated. We have communicated directly with the account owner."
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) November 27, 2018
So how did the account go from permanently suspended to temporarily suspended overnight? Well, as you can see above it probably helped that a Senator and a Senator-elect weighed in on this. Here’s what Josh Hawley said earlier today:
The new Congress needs to investigate and find out. Twitter is exempt from liability as a “publisher” because it is allegedly “a forum for a true diversity of political discourse.” That does not appear to be accurate.
— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) November 27, 2018
And last night, Kelly appeared on Tucker Carlson’s show to talk about the suspension. From the Hill:
“Why did Twitter take you off its platform?” Carlson asked late Monday on “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”
“Nobody knows. Twitter kicked me off the platform because I was a mainstream voice on the right that spoke the truth,” replied Kelly, a two-time congressional candidate. “They’ve given me no explanation [after] they told Congress they would give explanations…
Kelly, during a discussion with Carlson three months ago, predicted he would be kicked off Twitter after conspiracy theorist and Infowars founder Alex Jones was removed.
“They did exactly what I said they would do. They came for Alex Jones first because he’s a nut job and they wanted to see how the right would react,” Kelly told Carlson at the time. “They got him and I knew they were coming for me. And they will come for you too.”
I can’t claim I was upset when Twitter banned Alex Jones but I did write at the time that this seemed like a bad precedent given that the left’s desire for a safe space is never really satisfied:
I don’t have any use for Alex Jones. I’m not interested in defending him or his media empire. I do worry about the precedent being set here with the social media sites deciding as a group that someone should be silenced, partly in response to pressure from the left. That pressure to silence people the left disagrees with is not going to stop here. The far left’s desire for a safe space is never satisfied. And while this isn’t technically censorship (because Twitter is a private company), it does seem like a slippery slope in an area Jack Dorsey himself called a “digital public square” several times yesterday.
The problem is compounded by the fact that there is almost no transparency in these cases. Kelly was perma-banned by Twitter with no explanation and no avenue of appeal offered. Two days later, after a lot of reaction from the right, he’s back and Twitter has a completely new story. There doesn’t seem to be any clear process behind any of this, just whatever whims are striking people at Twitter in a given moment.
Does anyone think Jesse Kelly would have had his account restored if he didn’t have lots of high profile people on the right willing to talk about his situation? I think Twitter looked at the reaction and decided retreat was their best option, but that doesn’t mean they’ve learned anything from this. How long before they decide to ban someone else on the right, instantly and without explanation? Not every person who gets banned is going to have the benefit of a segment on national television to help change Twitter’s mind.