Twitter is a dangerous place for the faint of heart. Gang thuggery can devastate a delicate sensibility and even damage professional reputations beyond repair. Sarcastic allegations of misbehavior border on defamation and baseless charges of criminal behavior can be defamation per se. Whether such acts can be disputed, ignored or litigated depends on their severity and degree of malicious intent. The civil courts of late are demonstrating their impatience with irresponsible behavior of the most egregious kind. I personally have been victorious in this arena, while others less inclined, or for various reasons unable or unwilling to fight back, have fared less favorably. Anonymity, the foundation Twitter’s business model and appeal, supports the more venal in our midst, as it has supported those cowards who would snipe from dark corners since the advent of the written word. Before the the written word, malicious whisperers claimed their victims in a different but equally poisonous fashion.
Yet as difficult as it was in the early days of my experience with the gang assaults, I now find Twitter’s latest jihad against those who don’t tow the political line more dangerous by far. I took my case to court, I won the SLAPP judgment (admittedly against lawyers who lose on such a regular basis, losing might as well be a mantra), and justice was served. How would one fight the good fight, however, against Twitter’s latest gambit? Deciding that thousands of their clients’ opinions are not to Twitter’s political taste, they banged their corporate noggins together and virtually silenced those voices by terminating the “offending” accounts permanently.
No explanation. No appeal. No discussion.
Big Brother has spoken. Eat it and goodbye.
One teensy weensy problem implicit in this decision, however, may metastasize into a cancer that will eat Twitter alive. You see, Twitter and other huge corporate social media “portals” basically enjoy immunity from litigation for republishing defamatory comments made by their users. The argument is quite simple. In order to preserve the hallowed American right of free speech, having to “vet” every sentiment expressed by every user, from the POTUS down to the “pajama boy” hurling grenades from his mommy’s rumpus room, would place an undue burden on these “outlets of free expression.” Twitter, FaceBook, etc. in turn are then obligated by law to remain objective providers of free speech and not purveyors of news. News providers are explicitly NOT protected in this way. News organizations are expected to be objective and apolitical in their news reportage, yet ironically granted the luxury of editorial opinion, where expressly identified as such (editorial pages, commentary pieces). Now the Rachel Maddows of this arena, for example, while good for a chuckle, clearly disappoint by these standards to an alarming degree. They are actually bitter entertainers masquerading as journalists, and are recognized as such by all but their most ardent and slavish acolytes. Germane to this discussion are actual purveyors of journalistic “fact,” as responsible as they can reasonably be. If they mess up or fail in their due diligence, they often end their careers in disgrace (Dan Rather comes to mind as a biased embarrassment even Hollywood couldn’t resuscitate).
So here is where Twitter’s recent digital “Kristallnacht” against thousands of its users becomes alarming to those of us who still believe in free speech and crippling to Twitter as a portal impervious to actionable litigation. If they are using algorithms to ferret out those with whom their corporate goons disagree politically, are they now still an objective portal, not involved in the news and issues and OPINIONS of the current political zeitgeist? Indeed are those algorithms, in this case against conservative political thinkers labeled as”alt right,” (the easier to round them up into political boxcars) not the same effective mechanisms as editorial pages in objective media outlets (guffaw) such as the New York Times?
I’m not a lawyer, but a lawyer I respect has agreed it is probably a matter of time before a class action is filed against Twitter for its decision to abdicate objectivity regarding its clients’ right to free speech. Clearly the corporate honchos at Twittter don’t care much for Voltaire’s famous dictum about defending to the death another’s right to say that with which one may disagree. So be it.
Arrogance runs rampant at these liberal corporate websites. They think they can do whatever they want and no one will ever stand up to them. After all they have all the power, don’t they?
Sure they do. Just ask Gawker…