Culture

Knee-Jerk Account Bans Will Destroy Twitter

Thankfully, Twitter chose to reactivate the account of Glenn Reynolds, a.k.a. Instapundit this morning. Twitter suspended the account of the University of Tennessee law professor because of a Tweet that purportedly encouraged drivers on interstates who are surrounded by rioters to “run them down.”

That’s not a nice thing to say, but should it be considered so offensive and beyond the pale that Reynolds’ account needed to be suspended?

Almost anyone involved in politics on Twitter has had virulently offensive or anti-Semitic crap like this sent their way (save yourself a click, it’s a leech labeled as Jewish) on a regular basis, and those accounts either never get suspended or the vile little trolls just set up new accounts. But this tweet by Reynolds — one of the most even-tempered men you’ll ever meet – somehow warranted the Twitter equivalent of the death sentence, or at least exile.

The Twitter account suspension standard is now clear. There isn’t any objective measure of whether a Tweet is threatening or offensive. The real question is, does it bother someone at Twitter?

If this is going to be the standard on Twitter, is the medium really worth it? Why express your opinion if at any moment, somebody on the Twitter “Trust and Safety Council” can decide you’ve offended them, and your account can be shut down without warning or appeal?

We can work to create a more polite, respectful political discourse that involves censoring voices that use the most incendiary or offensive language. Or we can have a no-holds-barred, anything goes, First Amendment-absolutist one. I could operate happily in either. But whatever standard there is, there has to be one standard for everyone; those who see their job as policing discourse for ”appropriate” tone and language must apply the same rules to conservatives and liberals, libertarians and populists, the extreme Right and the extreme Left. No more insisting that Bill Maher calling Sarah Palin the c-word is completely different than Rush Limbaugh calling Sandra Fluke a “slut.”