I was planning on writing a column about the Democratic Party Convention. Nothing earth shattering — a shot at former President Bill Clinton; a defense of former Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s political bravery — but sharing one’s considered opinions, however droll, is a healthy American tradition, especially when one’s tickling controversy on both sides of the aisle.
Twitter once represented the rawest and most egalitarian form of this ethos, and an alarming new decision by the social media giant stomped on this week’s column plans. The platform that became famous for giving every American an equal say is doing something dangerous to our democracy now and it needs to be called out by voices left, right and center.
Twitter has erased an important New York voice — literally — and no one can figure out why. Check it out yourself. Go to @cpnys. You will find exactly nothing, other than a notice alerting that The New York State Conservative Party had its account suspended for violating some unspecified Twitter policy.
This is the third time the Conservative Party has been suspended by Twitter without explanation. The account was taken down from March 14 to April 14, from May 10 to May 26 and again beginning on July 10. It’s still out now, 11 weeks before a critically important election in which the party is running hundreds of candidates around New York. Twitter has allegedly ignored all outreach by party officials.
As someone who followed the Conservative Party on Twitter, and who’s done occasional work for it over the years, I can tell you the account wasn’t that interesting.
I say that as a compliment. Radical political organizations routinely push the envelope on the platform; CP tweets have been very small “c” conservative by comparison. At every given minute on any given day, one can view the worst forms of America-bashing on Twitter — it’s a free country — but traditional opinions trigger a shutdown?
One doesn’t have to support or even like New York’s 58-year-old Conservative Party to see the problem here. Legitimate political speech is being censored by a major media outlet, and that can’t be acceptable to anyone of goodwill.
I confess to having rolled my eyes at certain cable television loudmouths on the political right who have been screaming “censorship” for the past three years, but I’m seeing it clearly now with major concern as a citizen and platform user. If Twitter can silence an American political party indefinitely and without explanation, it can no longer be considered a valid conduit of ideas. It will have become an impediment to truth.
That’s a big deal.
I appreciate that social media companies are under enormous pressure to suppress incendiary opinion and disinformation campaigns, but it’s a problem they brought upon themselves. What did they expect when they created opinion platforms? Did they misunderstand the principle of free speech?
Now they are the arbiters of what’s OK to say and what’s not. How very, very frightening.
If Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey expects his company to maintain any legitimacy, he needs to release the algorithms the company is using to freeze accounts. That would tell us everything.
What exactly did the New York Conservative Party tweet that triggered this sentence? Show us. We’re all eyes and ears.
William F.B. O'Reilly is a consultant to Republicans.