Lauri Love, the British hacktivist who the United Kingdom has agreed to send to the United States to face charges despite pleas from over 100 MPs that he not be extradited, was permanently banned from Twitter this week. His account was @LauriLoveX.
The reasons are unclear, as no specific charges were fully explained to Love. It is understood that the reasons are related to an “alleged violent threat.” He wrote a few hours ago, “Being an actual Nazi on twitter: fine and dandy. Advocating punching Nazis on twitter: permanently banned for violent threats. This is why we can’t have nice things… (Only told I will never get my account back for obscure probably made-up reasons after starting a dozen support threads.)”
Social media justice is handled differently than justice is handled in the outdoors world: charges may be brought against an individual by unidentified parties, and if the charges are found to have merit by the social media company, the company can administer justice. Twitter is a private business, so it can make and change its own rules.
Thus, silencing Lauri Love is not precisely a free speech issue because Twitter, as a private business, can suspend or ban whomever its administrators want. If it becomes a blatant bully about it, its customers—us—will leave it in droves because then it will have transformed speech from free to expensive.
But Twitter’s business, the reason it exists in the first place, is communications at its most ideal: the free exchange of ideas, wit, snark, hopes, annoyances. Ideas with merit or wit attract attention. So do ideas on Twitter that are ugly, vile, depict violence. Without looking for them, I have seen video clips of people being beheaded on Twitter. Besides ruining that morning’s cup of coffee, the only other thing those video clips did for me was teach me to change my settings to not automatically play videos and to not display images without my approval.
I did not report the tweet in question to any authority. The images were from a valid news source, anyway, based in a country in which those images may not be as surprising to see.
Twitter’s business is communications. If its administrators start to decide that they can favor one sort of speech over another, or one sort of image, or ban certain words, phrases, or images—no unicorns anymore!—then that act of putting thumbs on the scale of certain favored sorts of communications, that becomes something like a free speech issue. One must start to police one’s speech on Twitter, and that lessens the experience for everyone.
(I was not in favor of banning the Internet bully Milo Yiannopoulos for the things he wrote; as I wrote in July, bullying Leslie Jones was not a free speech issue. If Twitter was a restaurant at which Mr. Yiannopoulos was doing to Ms. Jones what he was doing to her on Twitter, management would have been remiss to not kick him out.)
My friend Kitty Hundal wrote about Lauri Love’s permanent ban on the Hacktivist Culture website today: “While it is unclear as to what he posted that got him banned or even suspended in the first place, it is believed that this ‘violent threat’ referenced by the Twitter support team is either Lauri’s Tweets about punching Nazis, or perhaps a post that Lauri made on Facebook after he was temporarily suspended from Twitter, which was later screen-capped and shared by multiple accounts. It is also suspected that those in charge of Twitter are resentful of the fact that Lauri and his community reacted to his suspension by openly expressing their outrage to them directly, so this is their extremely petty way of getting back at Lauri.”
There is a clear hypocrisy among the Twitter support team in that there are countless self-identified Nazis and Nazi-sympathizers who spread hatred on this platform every single day, but any talk about punching them or implying that they should not be free from consequence is seen as ‘violence.’ Free speech is a fundamental value of the Internet and this must include social media platforms like Twitter, but in this case free speech is being upheld and violated selectively to the benefit of Twitter Fascists.
This is a severe injustice and a blatant act of censorship targeting an Anti-Fascist activist, while those using Twitter to spread fear and hatred towards people of colour, refugees, immigrants, women and the queer community are allowed to keep doing so.
Besides Lauri Love, several activists of my acquaintance have had their Twitter accounts temporarily suspended by Twitter in recent months. Kitty Hundal was one of them, so she knows first-hand what she describes. An anti-justice loudmouth on Twitter had a difference of opinion with her, and then, when she did not agree with his ravings, he complained and Twitter responded. (Her account was restored.)
The right wing sees any gains in social justice not as gains but as things taken from them as the result of complaining, of attention being granted to the squeaky wheel. They embrace the act of complaint. They employ it as a tool. They claim that political correctness, which is a multi-syllabic way of pronouncing the word “polite,” victimizes them, that requiring politeness is one step beyond the pale for them. And so the right wing complains. Far more often than not they complain about those they see as complainers; ironically, they are those who fight for more understanding in the world, for justice—individuals like Kitty Hundal, like Raymond Johansen, like Lauri Love. And those are just some of the fighters I personally deal with every day.
There are those who want an autocratic government to force the the world conform to their own beliefs; be they in favor of one race over another, in favor of one religion over another, in favor of one gender over the others. There are those who live under autocracies who do not perceive that they live in a country that forces its population to agree on everything, because they already agree. Such people want their version of Twitter to resemble the Saudi Arabia in which they live or the fascist land they wish they lived in. (If only someone would develop “Twitter for fascists.”)
So, in the name of free speech, a fascist demanded Lauri Love’s silence. Life has become too tiresome for me nowadays to enjoy such acts of irony delivered with no awareness of the irony. Fascists have always lacked a sense of irony because they only perceive an either/or world.
(If one perceives shades of nuance, then one can not be a fascist, but that supposes one more either/or: shades of gray versus black and white. So that makes me a fascist against fascism.)
Friends of Lauri Love were concerned that somehow the Twitter suspension was related to his extradition case. In a Facebook post (of course), he wrote:
Friends, Nazi-punchers, autonomist comrades-at-arms…
I have been suspended by Twitter. I don’t know why. Probably because of silly tone-policing algorithms and/or butthurt white supremacists.
However, it is not because I am about to be surprise kidnapped and rendered to the USA to be locked up and tortured.
We have submitted our perfected grounds for appeal as of last last Monday and strongly expect to hear that leave will be given for a High Court appeal to be heard in mid-to-late summer.
In the meanwhile, I would not want to be someone working on Twitter’s support desk today as I am a little bored, a little annoyed, and unicode Zalgos are quite fun to play with….
Love and Power,
There is a campaign to try to change Twitter’s administrative decree that everyone can join: “Please send direct messages and tweets to @Jack, @Twitter, and @Support, as well as contact Twitter through the support center: https://support.twitter.com/forms. You can also email Twitter directly and we encourage everyone to do so: email@example.com. In your tweets, please use the hashtag #FreeSpeechFreeLauri,as well as #FreeLauri and #AntiFa.”
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