• Richard Easson

Twitter's Double Standard Challenged in Middle East - Calls into Question Other Tech Giants' Intents

Twitter is under fire once again for picking and choosing which tweets to censor. This time it's not being scrutinized necessarily by Donald Trump, but by a foreign nation - Israel.

In a July 29th Knesset hearing on antisemitism in social media, human rights attorney Arsen Ostrovsky asked Ylwa Pettersson of Twitter "You have recently started flagging the tweets of President Trump. Why have you not flagged the tweets of Iran's Ayatollah Khameini, who has literally called for the genocide of Israel and the Jewish people?"

In her response, Pettersson said "We have an approach to world leaders that presently say that direct interactions with fellow public figures, comments on political issues of the day, or foreign policy sabre-rattling on military, economic issues are generally not in violation..." before being interrupted by Knesset member Michal Cotler-Wunsh who asked "So, calling for genocide is okay, but commenting on politics is not?"

Pettersson attempted to suggest that Trump, in his Tweets, was a risk in provoking violence, referencing his responses to the ongoing riots.

She mentioned that her company didn't entirely remove the tweet because they wanted to make sure that "citizens can see what their political figures are commenting and hold them accountable for what they are saying online."

Cotler-Wunsh slammed back "I think that what's come up again and again through different examples is actually a sense of double standards, and I would implore Twitter and other online platforms to ensure...that there is no double standard in the application."

Twitter had come under scrutiny by Republicans on Wednesday for suspending Donald Trump Jr.'s retweet of a video that promoted hydoxychloroquine as a COVID-19 treatment,

About a week prior, Iran's Ayatollah Khameini tweeted that Iran "will support and assist any nation or any group anywhere who opposes and fights the Zionist regime."

Follow-up tweets from Khameini compared the Israeli government to the coronavirus calling it a "deadly, cancerous growth." Later, Khameini tried playing down his intent to "massacre" the Israeli people, but rather insisted he wanted to eliminate the "Zionist regime."

Twitter has on their site what they call a "Hateful conduct policy." In that policy they define hateful conduct as: "You may not promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, caste, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease. We also do not allow accounts whose primary purpose is inciting harm towards others on the basis of these categories.

In an article published by the Washington Free Beacon, the human rights attorney Arsen Ostrovsky said about Ylwa Pettersson "She literally looked us in the face and said that the Iranian leader's call for genocide against Israel and Jews was an acceptable form of political discourse. Twitter cannot on the one hand say it is committed to tackling hate and violence, when it continues to provide an unfiltered platform to the Iranian leader to continue espousing calls for genocide and terror."

This is another reason why Twitter was called to testify in front of Congress on Wednesday along with other big tech companies. They, along with Facebook and Google, have been singling out conservatives.

Twitter and Facebook have both been allegedly suppressing, censoring, flagging, and deleting posts and tweets from conservatives. They've also been deactivating the accounts of conservative figures as well. As briefly mentioned earlier, Donald Trump Jr.'s Twitter account was suspended when he retweeted a video of Dr. Stella Immanuel standing alongside other doctors outside of the Supreme Court. Dr. Immanuel, in the video, indicated that she had been giving her more than 350 coronavirus patients, some with underlying conditions, hydroxychloroquine, zinc and Zithromax, and not a single one had died.

Google has been allegedly diminishing traffic to conservative sites, like Breitbart, who has seen a drop in search results of 99.7%. They've also been accused of withholding monetary compensation to conservative Youtube personalities like Steven Crowder.

Hopefully Congress will hold these tech giants accountable before they further diminish our First Amendment rights. They have been getting away with more and more over the years, especially while Trump has been in office. It's time that they stop their biased approach to censoring and flag and remove actual hateful commentary rather than commentary they dislike based on their personal political ideologies.

(Cover photo: Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)