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theodore M I R A L D I mpa ... editor, publisher, writer. katherine molé mfa ... art director
Wednesday, May 27, 2020
Twitter Wants to TARGET Conservatives — with None of a Publisher’s Responsibilities
Donald Trump. AFP via Getty Images Sohrab Ahmari
If Twitter is going to “fact check” the leader of the Free World, with a hard leftist as part of the team doing so, then it should be treated as the publisher that it is — with all the liabilities that entails.
On Tuesday, Twitter appended a fact-check label to a presidential tweet about the fraud risk associated with mail-in voting. The exclamation urged users to “get the facts about mail-in ballots.”
The link took users to a CNN story with the headline: “Trump makes unsubstantiated claim that mail-in ballots will lead to voter fraud.” It was the kind of opinion-masquerading-as-reportage that CNN, and too many other mainstream outlets, specialize in. “Experts say mail-in ballots are very rarely linked to voter fraud,” the story tsk-tsk’d — the experts apparently having forgotten the debacle of thousands of lost, missing and uncounted mail-in ballots reported by The New York Times last month.
Just in case CNN’s “experts-say” pabulum wasn’t enough to convince you that Orange Man Bad, Twitter also curated a number of tweets from the blue-check Twitterati slamming the president, with one even hysterically accusing Trump of planning “voter suppression.”
None of this comes as a surprise to conservatives on Twitter. For years, Twitter has censored conservative voices, increasingly without even bothering with the pretense of platform neutrality. This is the same firm that suspended actor and right-wing firebrand James Woods for tweeting a blurred, and publicly available, photo of Andrew Gillum, the failed Florida gubernatorial candidate, appearing to be high. Meanwhile, Twitter has consistently refused to suspend Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan — even after the left-wing darling compared Jews to termites.
And now we know why: A key actor in Twitter’s censorship operation turns out to be Yoel Roth, a fellow with an ideology so hard left it would scare Nation magazine’s editorial board — and blessed with a Silicon Valley sinecure (“head of site integrity”) that allows him to decisively slant the national conversation on the Web.
It was Roth who along with a co-worker introduced Twitter’s new “fact-checking” policy. “In serving the public conversation,” the pair wrote a couple of weeks ago, “our goal is to make it easy to find credible information on Twitter and to limit the spread of potentially harmful and misleading content” (read: conservative ideas).
“Starting today,” Roth and his comrade went on, “we’re introducing new labels and warning messages that will provide additional context and information on some Tweets containing disputed or misleading information related to COVID-19.” But apparently the “fact-checking” now extends far beyond the pandemic, to include countering the opinions of the commander in chief with left-wing opinion, er, “expertise.”
Roth also happens to be a rabid hater of Trump and the 63 million Americans who voted for him.
“I’m just saying,” he tweeted in November 2016, “we fly over those states that voted for a racist tangerine for a reason.”
In January 2017: “ ‘Today on Meet the Press, we’re speaking with Joseph Goebbels about the first 100 days. . .’—what I hear when [Trump aide] Kellyanne [Conway] is on a news show.”
In July 2017: “How does a personality-free bag of farts like [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell actually win elections?”
And so on. But it turns out Twitter is playing with fire. Lawmakers could call for revoking the company’s legal immunity under an obscure federal law that allows Big Tech companies to eat their cake and have it, too, acting as censors, editors and publishers while incurring none of the liability.
Here’s the deal: If I publish libelous claims in The Post, my victims can hold The Post liable in court. But Twitter is immune to such suits under the 1996 Communications Decency Act. Section 230 of the law provides that “no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”
But note the underlying assumption: that online bulletin boards — and that’s what Twitter is, a glorified bulletin board — don’t act as “publishers.” But by policing conservatives and “fact-checking” the Republican president of the United States, Twitter is acting exactly like a publisher. So why should one class of publishers, such as The Post, be held liable, while another gets to escape liability merely because its “editors” are hard-left California geeks?
Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri had the right idea last year, when he introduced legislation that would remove Section 230 immunity from tech companies unless they could prove that “their algorithms and content-removal practices are politically neutral.” Amen.
Meanwhile, as of this writing, Twitter had yet to “fact-check” Mayor Bill de Blasio’s tweet “encouraging New Yorkers to go on with your lives and get out on the town despite coronavirus.” Countless accusations of Russian collusion remain. What a joke.