Conservative personality Candace Owens recently had her Twitter account suspended, although Twitter later reinstated her account, calling it an accident. This was after Owens replaced the word “white” with “black” in Tweets by newly hired New York Times staffer Sarah Jeong.
Black people are only fit to live underground like groveling goblins. They have stopped breeding and will all go extinct soon. I enjoy being cruel to old black women.
The above statements are from @nytimes editor @sarahjeong. I simply swapped out the word “white” for “black”.
— Candace Owens (@RealCandaceO) August 4, 2018
Of course, once again Twitter claimed the suspension was an accident after public outcry. The obvious question being asked is why were the original Tweets by Jeong defended while Owens simply swapping out one group of people for another was grounds for a suspension?
But what is really happening is that Twitter, like other social media platforms are taking advantage of the chilling effect. In this context, the chilling effect is used to discourage certain speech by somehow punishing those who are already engaged in it. It’s a way of banning certain ides and speech without admitting it outright. This is exactly what Twitter is doing. They are trying to discourage other people from not only engaging in this type of speech for fear of having their account suspended, they are also trying to prevent people from starting new accounts that are conservative or post similar viewpoints.
This is the main reason for these highly public “accidental” suspensions that end up being blamed on an algorithm. Their true purpose is to not only make people think twice about posting viewpoints the platform doesn’t like, it also prevents new voices from entering the debate, and this is the most sinister part. Imagine if a person wanted to create a new conservative channel, they may hesitate if they hear about all these large channels with similar viewpoints being shadow banned, suspended, or demonetized. Why would someone bother to invest the time in creating a new channel or account when it can be shadow banned or suspended at any time? For example, with Twitter, some new accounts are shadow banned immediately just for following conservative accounts.
So Twitter isn’t really looking to punish someone like Candace Owens. She is already popular enough that Twitter knows if they delete her account, it would have the opposite effect that they want. Instead, they temporarily suspend popular accounts like Candace Owens because they know it will be widely publicized. Then they quickly reinstate the account. But the effect they wanted has already been achieved. It discourages others from taking the time to start their own channel, or sometimes even voice their own opinions due to fears of similar retaliation. And these people know that since their accounts are not nearly as popular as someone like Candace Owens, they have no chance of getting the suspension overturned. This is referred to as the chilling effect. Normally that term is used in a legal context regarding laws that have a blanket effect on stifling free speech. But here we see it being used by social media platforms as a way to stifle new voices that they don’t agree with. They don’t have to outright ban the ideas or speech, but they can publicly harass the largest accounts that post the content they don’t like as a way to put fear into the smaller accounts or those looking to start one.
YouTube does a very similar thing. By giving out community guideline strikes or even deleting videos from popular creators they don’t agree with. The whole purpose is to discourage other new content creators from starting a similar channel out of fear it will end up being a waste of effort when YouTube suspends them for no reason.
So don’t be fooled by these “accidental” suspensions and account blockings that are later reversed or blamed on an algorithm. These platforms know exactly what they are doing. They are targeting large accounts which they can’t outright ban for it would make them “martyrs” in a sense and even more popular. So instead they just harass the big accounts because that will get the most media attention and therefore frighten the most people into either not creating new channels or not posting content similar to the accounts getting harassed.
In the end, those who censor are always on the wrong side of the debate. For if the truth stood with them, they would want every piece of factual information available for public viewing.
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