Social media is suspending and blocking the accounts of Israeli politicians and, unsurprisingly, all of the politicians are right-wing. But more concerning is the actions coincide with a new feature on Twitter that will allow select members to censor the accounts of others.
Activists from Right-Wing Party Suspended and Blocked
On Tuesday, several right-wing Israeli politicians were shocked to find their Twitter accounts suspended. The common thread appeared to be a connection with Itamar Ben Gvir, leader of the Otzma Yehudit party. Ben Gvir, who lives in Hebron, is also renowned for his pro bono legal aid to Jewish activists which frequently sets him at odds with the Israeli police and left-wing elements in the government.
The accounts of Shmuel Epstein and Yigal Malka, spokespersons for the party, and at least three others were suspended without any explanation offered by Twitter with the owners of the accounts blacked and unable to open their own accounts. It was later revealed that the suspensions were enacted at precisely the same time.
In a letter to the company, the targets of the suspension suggested that since there was no common post or action that would have generated the action, the motive was clearly political. They emphasized that being active in the political sphere, social media was an essential tool and, as such, they are careful to adhere to the terms of service. They also noted that since the terms of service constitute a bilateral agreement, Twitter is required to provide the agreed upon service.
Ben Gvir is currently constructing a major lawsuit against Facebook for lowering expos
BirdWatch: Select Users Censoring Others
Twitter has just launched a new “fact-checking” program called Birdwatch that allows some users to slap warning or “misinformation” labels on tweets. At this stage, the feature is only available to a limited selection of users.
“Eventually we aim to make notes visible directly on Tweets for the global Twitter audience when there is consensus from a broad and diverse set of contributors,” the company said in a statement.
Twitter’s vice president of product, Keith Coleman, wrote in a blog post the company believes its program “has the potential to respond quickly when misleading information spreads, adding context that people trust and find valuable.”
The Twitter suspension of right-wing political activists coincides with Facebook suspending a chatbot used on the account of Prime Minister Netanyahu. Facebook also suspended Netanyahu’s chatbot twice in the run-up to the elections in September 2017.
It should be noted that in his testimony before the Senate in November, Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, admitted that his comopany had workplace tools that allowed for collaboration with Twitter and other internet organizations.