(Update: Twitter has removed the block on IStandWithPhil.com, apologized, and said the site was blocked “mistakenly.”)
I never thought I’d say this: Twitter has done something much more offensive than Phil Robertson did with his ignorant and gross denunciation of homosexuality.
The site has taken it upon itself to block users from linking to IStandWithPhil.com, a site where people can express their support for the suspended “Duck Dynasty” star. Worse, it has refused to say exactly why it is blocking the site, hiding behind vague, disingenuous messages about “spammy or unsafe content.”
At least Robertson owns his views, stupid as they are.
By censoring the site, Twitter is sending a message that certain views are right and others are wrong. It should trust us to figure out right and wrong on our own.
Is it possible Twitter has legitimate concerns about spam? If so, it might want to get out front with a statement to that effect now. Because that’s not how it appears. The pro-Robertson group Faith Driven Consumer says the site has censored three separate campaigns it has started on his behalf. If it’s all a misunderstanding, Twitter should be aware of the problem: It’s been the subject of a news release from Faith Driven Consumer, and the group and TheWrap have reached out for an explanation.
By becoming not just a medium for messages but a filter, the site is expressing a lack of confidence in its power as a forum for ideas.
Twitter is a place for ridiculous gifs, dumb jokes, and, at its best, plotting revolutions. The genius of the site is that anyone can say anything, within the limits of 140 characters. And anyone is free to correct anyone. Users get to the truth almost instantly with favorites and retweets. The smart rise to the top. Occasionally, a Middle Eastern dictator goes down.
It’s a beautiful thing — when Twitter has the sense to get out of its own way.
Some people will make the case that Twitter is a business, not a government entity, and can censor whoever it wants. But Twitter is a business that thrives on open political debate. It is essential that it not silence one side. (Full disclosure: I just remembered I have a small amount of stock in the company. So I’m suggesting both as a shocked writer and a very, very minor stockholder that Twitter be smarter.)
Most of Robertson’s supporters aren’t using the IStandWithPhil.com website to condemn gays or express hate speech. Even if a few are, we should be glad — it’s nice when bigots do us the courtesy of writing down their names on a piece of paper so we know not to date them later.
What most visitors to the site are objecting to is the idea that media outlets limit their free expression.
I thought those people were full of it, to be honest. Robertson wasn’t suspended from “Duck Dynasty” for his religious belief that homosexuality was a sin. People are free to believe very dumb things.
Robertson was suspended for crossing the line over to derision and mockery. There is no case to be made that his professed personal preference for “vagina” over “a man’s anus” is based on anything in Corinthians. He wasn’t suspended for his religious beliefs. He was suspended for the nasty way he expressed them, and the bad attention that brought to his employer, A&E.
Unfortunately, Twitter had played right into the hands of conservative Christians who were previously deluding themselves when they imagined higher powers were out to get them because of their faith.
By censoring them for expressing their right to defend Robertson, the site has given truth to the once absurd narrative that conservative Christians are the victims of thought policing. Supporters will rally to the group’s defense, and to the argument that Robertson has been excessively punished for his views.
Thought policing didn’t work for those dictators, either. Twitter should know that better than anyone.