Shortly before Senator Tom Cotton publicly backed a Senate GOP bill that would make the liability shield enjoyed by social media companies contingent on a pledge not to suppress political speech, he shared an experience with the staff of Twitter, who tried to intimidate the senator into deleting several of his tweets.
Cotton caused a near-mutiny inside the New York Times, causing the newspaper to take a major reputational hit, after kowtowing to a mob of 'woke' journalists-activists (apparently a large faction among the NYT's reporters, many of whom claimed that the paper "put black reporters in danger" by publishing Cotton's editorial, not exactly the view of an "objective" journalist).
On Wednesday, as the debate over Silicon Valley censorship raged, Cotton published an editorial on Fox News' website, and later appeared on TV to share the story again. In it, he shared how "a low-level employee in Twitter’s Washington office" nitpicked the language in one of his tweets - just like they recently did with President Trump's use of the phrase 'when the looting starts, the shooting starts', which the left claims has a 'secret racist history', Cotton used the phrase "no quarter", a common English-language idiom - and threatened to permanently suspend his account if he didn't delete the tweet. They allegedly gave him 30 minutes to comply.
Anarchy, rioting, and looting needs to end tonight.— Tom Cotton (@TomCottonAR) June 1, 2020
If local law enforcement is overwhelmed and needs backup, let's see how tough these Antifa terrorists are when they're facing off with the 101st Airborne Division.
We need to have zero tolerance for this destruction.
Like Trump, Cotton clearly intended the phrase to reflect the common idiomatic usage (Trump, on the other hand, perhaps went a little overboard with his trademark bluster, but we doubt he was aware of the term's "historical significance", as WaPo once put it).
Still,threatened one of the senator's aides that Cotton had to delete the tweet within 30 minutes or have his account suspended.
After trying to explain this to the twitter staffer who was liaising with his team, the staffer said she would "take this back to my team", while Cotton's team opted to play it safe and comply.
Cotton recounts the interaction in a section from the op-ed:
On June 1, Americans awoke to news of rioting and looting in our streets. In Washington alone, rioters burned an historic church, looted many businesses and defaced memorials to Abraham Lincoln and the veterans of World War II.
First on television, then on Twitter, I noted that the National Guard and active-duty troops could be called out to support local police if necessary, as happened during the 1992 Los Angeles riots. “No quarter for insurrectionists, anarchists, rioters, and looters,” I wrote.
This was apparently too much for the professional umbrage-takers on Twitter. In high dudgeon, they exclaimed that “no quarter” once meant that a military force would take no prisoners, but instead shoot them.
Never mind that the phrase today is a common metaphor for a tough or merely unkind approach to a situation. For instance, former Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg and The New York Times have used the phrase in this way. Or that politics often employs the language of combat as metaphors: campaigns, battleground states, target races, air war and ground war, and so forth. And, of course, the exaggerated foolishness that I was literally calling for the arrest and summary execution of American citizens.
But a sense of proportion is not Twitter’s long suit. Within a few hours, a low-level employee in Twitter’s Washington office contacted some of my aides at random, claiming that my tweet violated the company’s policies. She also issued an ultimatum: delete the tweet or Twitter would permanently lock my account. She gave me only 30 minutes to comply.
My aide tried to reason with the employee. We offered to post a new tweet clarifying my meaning — which I did anyway — but the employee refused, insisting I had to delete the original tweet because some snowflakes had retweeted it.
We asked why my tweet wouldn’t simply be flagged, as Twitter recently did to a tweet by the president. She contended that Twitter only did so for heads of state, not elected legislators, though its policy plainly states otherwise. The only option, she reiterated, was deleting the tweet or losing my account.
Finally, we provided them some dictionary definitions of “no quarter.” She said that she would “take that back to our teams.”
Is this really the new status quo? Being held responsible - and censored accordingly - for even the most uncharitable interpretations of every word, every phrase? Does that really sound like a responsible way to build trust in an on-line "community"?