Australia’s and New Zealand’s often draconian laws on content and information dissemination are once again affecting internet users in America. But the latest case also revealed some of the inner workings at Twitter, suggesting a political and ideological bias.
John Lott of the Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC) first had his personal Twitter account blocked, followed by that of his organization – when it linked to an article published in the New York Daily News, that he had penned after the first ban.
Lott, who describes himself as a conservative, is a leading gun crime and statistics expert, and the offending tweet had to do with the true ideology espoused by the New Zealand mosque shooter.
In the March tweet, Lott said that the killer, contrary to popular belief, is a socialist and environmentalist who hates capitalism. And this can be deduced from the shooter’s manifesto.
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When asked why they decided to block the CPRC account, Twitter said they do not allow linking to content “that includes excerpts of manifestos of mass shooters” – and this is “due to the safety of Twitter users and regulations abroad.”
Lott writes that post-mosque shootings rules introduced in Australia mean those violating them could be forced to pay up to ten percent of annual revenue – and that a Twitter representative said they had to react to somebody reporting a tweet breaking these laws – “because the Australian and New Zealand governments would have been alerted to the violation.”
Therefore, he writes, the reason why a large number of other Twitter accounts who also tweeted a link to the New York Daily News article – including the news website itself – didn’t get blocked must be that nobody reported them.
But when Lott run an experiment to report those tweets as well – there was no reaction from Twitter. That made him suspect that the real problem was ideology and politics.
Media outlets such as the Kansas Star had been free to quote the mosque shooter’s manifesto, but they framed the article to describe him as a white supremacist and a right-winger – with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) linking to this on Twitter with no consequences, and stating that “violent US extremism” was the shooter’s inspiration.
By contrast, Lott cited the manifesto to explain that the shooter’s ideology was quite different. “Twitter doesn’t like to admit that a socialist/environmentalist who hates capitalism can also be a racist,” he writes.