During my time in Iraq working for the State Department, a time that I initially was a red, white and blue government official, I frequently lied to the media. I lied to them about how things were going, I lied to them about how successful we were.
My colleagues and I were contemptuous of them, most of the people we talked to in the media didn’t know enough to ask important questions, most of them didn’t care enough to ask questions and simply jotted down whatever we told them, and it was just remarkably easy to fool them. It’s almost as if they wanted to play along with us.
At one point I described it as they weren’t looking for “the story,” just “a story.” I made some remarks about how many of them were more concerned about looking good in their stand-ups, getting their makeup on straight than looking for details or questioning the lies that the government put forward.
– Peter Van Buren, Iraq War Whistleblower, banned from Twitter a few days ago
The above quote is from an extraordinary discussion between Daniel McAdams, Scott Horton and Peter Van Buren that occurred yesterday.
Stop whatever you’re doing right now and watch this, it’s that important.
Let’s now get right into why this is so incredibly problematic. Mr. Van Buren claims that he was deleted from Twitter after making a mainstream journalist named Jonathan Katz uncomfortable with what was an obvious joke that no honest person would ever take as a real threat of violence.
Van Buren wrote “I hope a MAGA guy eats your face,” which apparently led Katz to complain to the Twitter authorities. Shortly afterwards, Van Buren was disappeared from Twitter.
Here’s where what Twitter did becomes extremely problematic. When the company, or its secret algorithms, banned Van Buren it sent all his tweets down the memory hole. Thus, we can’t go back and look at the history of everything that happened in this specific incident, nor can we review his history of tweets. He just gets vanished with no recourse for writing something pretty innocuous in the grand scheme of things.
If Twitter’s going to disappear someone from the platform it should do two things. First, offer that person a detailed account of why they were banned and let them appeal the decision. Second, simply because a person can’t tweet going forward, that person’s history of tweets should be left up for posterity and history’s sake, provided the person who composed the tweets wants to keep them up. This Orwellian vanishing of years and years of compliant tweets and valuable information is unethical and indefensible.
I’ve been an active user and major proponent of Twitter since 2012, but Jack Dorsey and company are flirting with disaster if they keep this up. If what Daniel McAdams says is true and he was temporarily suspended for a retweet, something is seriously broken at the platform.
Although I ultimately hope Twitter can get back on track, the problems faced by using centralized platforms in which humans are relied upon to make arbitrary decisions on who gets to speak and who doesn’t based on their whims, biases and emotions needs to be addressed. A platform needs to be just that, a platform.
This gets to one of the main reasons I’ve been and remain such a ardent supporter of Bitcoin. The principles of decentralization, open source code and censorship resistant peer-to-peer interaction is applicable to human society on multiple levels. Not just when it comes to money, but it’s also instrumental when it comes to protecting free speech and creating a genuine digital “public square.”
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