I’m supposed to be angry at Twitter, I realize. But I’m finding it difficult.
On Wednesday, the social-media giant went on a “purge,” removing white-nationalist Richard Spencer and the account for his “think tank,” the National Policy Institute; Ricky Vaughn, well known for his lightly informed theories about “the global banking elite”; Pax Dickinson, of muckraking site WeSearchr, who recently suggested that an Evan McMullin electoral victory in Utah could prompt a “Mormoncaust,” and who was previously forced to resign from Business Insider in 2013 for offensive tweets; and a number of others.
There’s no legal issue here, of course. Twitter is a private company; they can ban whoever they like, for (almost) any reason or no reason. When you sign up to use the site, you agree to play by their rules. That’s why I’ve suggested that if conservatives are incensed about Twitter’s treatment of its users, the only lasting solution is to create their own social-media platforms.
But conservatives are likely to see a principle at stake: “If it can happen to them, why not me? First they came for the ‘s**tlords,’ and I didn’t speak up. . . . ” And, indeed, Twitter regularly is arbitrary, hypersensitive, or hypocritical — for example, when it baselessly stripped the verification checkmarks of prominent conservative users earlier this year. Likewise, earlier this year, it was discovered that Facebook systematically suppresses conservative views in its “News” section.
Yet, sometimes the corporate jackboots accidentally get it right.
Those of us on the right spend our time trying to loosen the very real clamps that exist on speech, for instance, on university campuses. And that’s important work. DePaul University has the right to forbid Ben Shapiro from speaking, as it did this week. But conservatives oppose DePaul’s doing so because they object to the idea that Ben Shapiro is somehow morally beyond the pale. He’s not. He’s a mainstream conservative, working within a delineable tradition of conservative thought.
It doesn’t follow, though, that because Shapiro should be allowed to address DePaul students, so should Jared Taylor. Just because we should not draw the line at Shapiro doesn’t mean we shouldn’t draw a line anywhere.
Twitter would do well to be more transparent about its decisions. There’s no reason that Twitter could not demystify its guidelines about what constitutes impermissible speech on its platform, and then enforce them fairly. Doing so would be fairer to users and would reduce the aggrievance of users and observers who feel that the site is just another instrument of an arbitrarily restrictive left-wing agenda.