Sweeping censorship across social media and subscriber-content sites has pushed conservatives out of these sites and sent them searching for more tolerant digital platforms. The latest story in the news points to increased bans and discrimination against conservative views on Twitter. However, shockingly, Twitter isn’t simply censoring conservative speech, it’s also enforcing foreign laws from sharia-based countries.
As Clarion Project reported, Ensaf Haidar, wife of imprisoned Saudi liberal blogger Raif Badawi, was warned by Twitter authorities that she was violating Pakistani law by tweeting against the niqab (face veil). Haidar had simply tweeted a photo of a woman in a niqab along with the words, “Retweet if you’re against niqab.” That earned Haidar a letter from Twitter telling her she was in “violation of Pakistan[i] law.”
Twitter imposed the same Pakistani law on Canadian columnist Anthony Furey. The Toronto Sun op-ed editor was accused by Twitter of insulting Islam’s prophet Mohammed, which in Pakistan is an offense punishable by death.
Twitter’s increasing boldness in platform censorship isn’t limited to these two examples nor is it exclusive to Twitter. It is also happening on YouTube, Facebook and other platforms like Patreon.
However, the censorship on Twitter is particularly egregious because the site has become the online “watering hole” for debate and dialogue.
William Shakespeare famously said, “Jesters do oft prove prophets,” meaning that if you want know the truth, you will hear it from the court jesters.
Today’s “jesters” are our satirists and select comedians, but even they’re not exempt from the crushing boot of our digital overlords. Twitter permanently banned satirist Godrey Elfwick, who targeted extreme left-wing political correctness. Elwick, who had over 70,000 followers, was kicked off Twitter in July of 2018 for “targeted abuse” (his target was the extreme and sometimes violent behavior that far leftists were exhibiting toward those who oppose their views). Nevermind that Elfwick is a self-described demisexual, genderqueer Muslim atheist.
As University of Toronto psychology professor and author Jordan B. Peterson shared, “If it persecutes a jester, it’s probably a tyrant.”
The pattern of persecution has conservatives and supporters actively flocking to alternative platforms, including Parler News. According to Parler News CEO John Matze:
“Alternative platforms will rise and those who are bold will switch. Big tech is not too big to topple, in fact, they are blinded by their size/power and are hurting themselves by ideologically targeting groups.”
However, the danger of alternative platforms is that that they split leftists and conservatives, thus serving to increase each group’s echo chamber. The beauty of Twitter was that it provided a shared space to listen and interact. Of course, as that “dialogue” has become more incensed and politically charged, many were left to feel like they were participating less in a social media dialogue platform and more in a den of vipers.
Yet ideological separation is a double-edged sword: In the short-term, conservatives don’t deserve to have the plug pulled from them, nor should they suffer intimidating letters that they have violated blasphemy laws of developing nations. However, in the long run, it is doubtful we benefit from surrounding ourselves only with those who agree with us.
Furthermore, political persecution in the digital world is eerily reminiscent of patterns of migration and exodus due to religious persecution in Europe a few hundred years ago. This persecution gave rise to the American Revolution, making possible a state of freedom and innovation. Ironically, that state has spawned Silicon Valley — a crushing global force with the widest censorship reach in human history.