Growing opposition to Twitter censorship from the Socialist Equality Party (Australia)
More than two days after it was first imposed, the Socialist Equality Party (Australia) Twitter account lock remains in place, effectively disabling it. The protracted nature of the measure and the absence of any credible explanation from the social media company qualifies its actions as political censorship.
Posts asking for full MS account reinstatement and an explanation from the Twitter page have been shared hundreds of times and reached thousands of users. Many have linked the MS account lockout to a broader campaign to silence those who criticize official policies, including militarism, war and COVID “herd immunity” policies.
As the WSWS previously reported, the lockdown was first imposed on Thursday Australian time (AEST), no later than 10:50 a.m.
Just minutes earlier, the SEP account posted a video.
He defended Dr David Berger, a well-known GP, sanctioned by Australian medical authorities for his consistent opposition to ‘let it rip’ COVID policies and his advocacy of an elimination strategy aimed at ending the pandemic. The video drew attention to the parallels between the attacks on Berger and other fighters for social and democratic rights, including WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange.
The video can be viewed below.
When the lockdown was imposed, this video was removed by Twitter and replaced with a label claiming she broke unspecified rules.
The initial lockdown was to last 12 hours, gave no information about the page’s alleged violations, could not be reviewed, and provided no means of communication or redress. After the 12 hours passed, the SEP received a notification that their account remained locked.
The video would have had “Violat[ed] our rules against posting or sharing someone’s privately produced/distributed intimate media without their express consent. The lock would stay in place until the video is fully deleted.
On Friday morning, around 9:30 a.m. (AEST), the SEP filed an appeal. He noted that the reasons given for censoring the video were false. It did not contain any “intimate” content. All images were either in the public domain or provided to the WSWS by the persons depicted.
Three hours later, at 12:30 p.m. (AEST), the SEP received confirmation that their call had been received. Over 24 hours since then, Twitter has in no way answered the call.
The timeline raises questions about:
Was the initial unexplained 12-hour block simply meant to give admins time to concoct a pretense for censorship?
Why was the SEP account completely disabled, rather than receiving some sort of warning? He is associated with a well-known and long-standing political organization, has more than 2,000 followers and has operated on Twitter since 2010 without any charges of breaking the rules.
Were human reviewers involved in the censorship of the SEP account? If so, how could they misunderstand that the video contains “intimate” imagery, when it clearly doesn’t? If they were so wrong, why didn’t they contact the SEP to clarify the issue?
If Twitter’s actions at this point are purely the result of algorithms and automated processes, why did it take three hours for the SEP appeal to be acknowledged? This clearly indicates the involvement of human moderators.
If the SEP video was the subject of a false complaint within minutes of being viewed, why was this malicious report taken at face value and acted upon so drastically? Anyone who’s been on Twitter for a while knows that such false reports are commonplace. Generally, they are investigated before any action is taken.
Why was the report, if there is one, apparently treated by Twitter as an indisputable, semi-official edict?
This raises an obvious question: if there was a false report regarding the SEP video, did it come from a high-profile political figure or anyone associated with government and state agencies? ?
Regarding the last question, it is worth noting that Berger’s personal Twitter account has repeatedly been the subject of comments from right-wing trolls, defending the government’s policies of mass infection and death.
There is also an ecosystem of anti-Assange accounts, which fuel and promote the intelligence apparatus’ decade-long campaign to destroy the courageous journalist. One of the more persistent accounts has repeatedly gloated about the SEP’s Twitter lockdown.
Twitter’s silence is all the more striking, given the substantial support that has been voiced for the full reinstatement of the MS account.
On Thursday afternoon, SEP National Secretary Cheryl Crisp posted a Tweet signaling the lockdown. As of this writing, Crisp’s post has been retweeted or shared over 240 times and liked by nearly 500 people. It received over 35,000 impressions, a measure of the number of times the post appeared in unique individual users’ Twitter feeds.
Many others posted strong comments. Chris Turnbull, a freelance journalist, retweeted Crisp’s post, with the following comment: “Attack on Dr. Berger continues: now extended to those who defend him: Twitter suspends groups that don’t violate their own rules.”
Another user wrote: “It is unconscionable but not surprising to see Twitter standing in solidarity with the state in preventing a great medical journalist like Dr David Berger from telling the truth about the pandemic.
A long-time Assange supporter wrote: “. @TwitterSupport unlock @SEP_Australia account – fully restore it! @Twitter users need reliable accts! The SEP reports and defends workers everywhere! For years they have championed #JulianAssange by bringing an obscured story to light. 7 articles on #AssangeCase in July alone!”
One user got to the heart of the matter by posting, “Irony? Someone is tweeting about *others* free speech on *various* topics. Twitter responds by deleting their tweet and locking their account? ! The tweet was maliciously flagged as [containing intimate] content🤦♀️ @TwitterSupport”
The SEP will continue to demand the full reinstatement of his account and a full explanation of how and why the censorship was imposed. This is key to defeating a precedent for new attacks on anti-war, leftist and socialist posts on the platform.
We urge all other Twitter users committed to democratic rights to support this campaign. Tweet your opposition to the lockdown, direct it to @TwitterSupport and include the hashtag #OpposeSEPTwitterLock.