A little more than one year ago, a few weeks after the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, I worried out loud to some friends in the tech world about the way numerous Internet-based services had responded by banning far-right figures associated with the event. While social media services like Twitter had banned individual provocateurs such as Chuck Johnson and Milo Yiannopoulos prior to this, the wave of bans following Charlottesville included credit card companies, financial services, booking sites, and domain registrars.
I worried this set a precedent whereby those with views far enough outside the mainstream, whatever that may mean, would be denied not only the ability to voice their ideas publicly, but the ability to function in the modern world. No, my friends assured me, this fear was unfounded. First, in a marketplace, firms are interested in drawing from a larger pool of customers. Second, the Charlottesville marchers were too extreme to indicate a broader trend.
Fast-forward to today, and not only have more mainstream, but still somewhat fringe, figures—most notably Alex Jones—met similar fates, but in the past week Twitter has also begun to ban indisputably mainstream figures. On Sunday, Jesse Kelly, a conservative writer who voiced concern about creeping social media censorship in the wake of Jones’ banning in August, had his account permanently terminated without apparent reason.
Last week, Twitter also permanently banned feminist writer Meghan Murphy for tweets insufficiently obedient to transgender language conventions. The latter incident highlighted a recent change in Twitter’s terms of service regarding “Hateful conduct” to now include “targeted misgendering or deadnaming of transgender individuals.”
Referring to transgender people by either their biological sex or their name prior to becoming transgender is now grounds for a ban, grouped in with “non-consensual slurs, epithets, racist and sexist tropes, or other content that degrades someone.” While Kelly and Murphy have not faced the cross-platform bans that Jones did, their cases illustrate the shifting definition of “hate” that is increasingly being used to justify the censorship and ostracism of anyone willing to voice even mainstream conservative opinions. (Read more from “How Twitter’s Biased Bans Echo China’s Social Control System” HERE)