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Dec 2, 22

Elon Musk’s New Direction for Twitter: Not “Free Speech,” but Banning the Left while Welcoming Fascists

Agency looks at billionaire Elon Musk banning various anarchist and antifascist accounts on Twitter at the bequest of far-Right trolls as the social media giant moves to embrace the far-Right.

On November 25, at the urging of a far-right troll, Elon Musk banned the @crimethinc Twitter account. The account had some 67,000 followers on the day of its suspension. CrimethInc. is an anarchist publisher. For two and a half decades, CrimethInc. has published books, podcasts, pamphlets, news coverage, music, and a range of other material from a variety of perspectives affirming the importance of self-determination and opposing all forms of oppression and domination. Thousands of authors, journalists, scholars, publishers, community organizations, educators, and activists have gone on record to emphasize the importance of their contribution to public discourse.

To read CrimethInc’s full statement on the suspension, see: https://crimethinc.com/2022/11/25/elon-musk-bans-crimethinc-from-twitter-on-request-from-far-right-troll.

“Our account is only one of many accounts belonging to anarchists, anti-fascists, and leftists that have been banned since Musk took charge of the company, while avowed neo-Nazis have been welcomed back to the platform,” explains Leigh Young of the CrimethInc. Collective. “Musk’s governance of Twitter has not increased ‘free speech’ on the platform. Rather, he has sought to silence opposition while opening up space for the far right.”

On November 24, Paul Ray Ramsey, a white nationalist who speaks at conferences alongside Richard Spencer, posted a tweet approving of a wave of bans targeting “antifa” and anti-fascists on Twitter. Elon Musk responded favorably to him. Early on the morning of November 25, far-right troll Andy Ngo answered Musk, specifically requesting that the @crimethinc account be banned from Twitter. That same morning, at 9:21 am, CrimethInc. received an email from [email protected] establishing that the @crimethinc account was not in violation of Twitter policy, reading:

“Twitter is required by German law to provide notice to users who are reported by people from Germany via the Network Enforcement Act reporting flow. We have received a complaint regarding your account, @crimethinc […] We have investigated the reported content and have found that it is not subject to removal under the Twitter Rules or German law.”

By noon Eastern time, however, the @crimethinc account had been permanently suspended.

Unusually, and contrary to Twitter’s standard practice, CrimethInc. did not receive any sort of message announcing or justifying the suspension. Apparently, the suspension took place outside standard protocol, without the “careful review” that Twitter used to carry out before suspending users. Throughout fourteen years on Twitter, the @crimethinc account had never been suspended nor even received a warning.

This suggests that the decision to ban the @crimethinc account immediately after Musk’s exchange with Andy Ngo was dictated by Musk himself, without regard for Twitter policy. Andy Ngo’s tweet to Musk is a mix of untruths and outright falsehoods. “They’ve claimed a number of attacks,” for example, is neither true of CrimethInc. as a publisher nor of anything that was posted on the @crimethinc Twitter account.

The screenshots in Ngo’s tweet are not all from the @crimethinc Twitter account, and the ones that are from it are all years old and taken out of context. Presumably, at the time the tweets in question were posted, they were found to be in agreement with the Twitter Rules. This is especially likely because right-wing trolls like Ngo have been mass-reporting @crimethinc tweets for years as a pressure tactic intended to silence accounts that do not align with their ideology. Chad Loder reports that far-right mass-reporting campaigns have reached a fever pitch since Musk took charge of Twitter.

“Andy Ngo has made a professional career out of fear-mongering about anti-fascists as a way to make a profit in today’s polarized political environment,” recounts Leigh Young of CrimethInc. “He has a financial incentive to spread falsehoods.”

Important background on Andy Ngo’s claims to journalism is available in this article from Jewish Currents. Ngo spent years as the in-house journalist of Patriot Prayer, a violent far-right group. He has been documented witnessing Patriot Prayer planning violent attacks that resulted in criminal charges.

A wide range of accounts belonging to anarchists, anti-fascists, or leftists have been banned since Elon Musk took control of Twitter, though @crimethinc appears to be the only account that Musk himself banned directly at the request of a far-right troll. The list of suspended accounts is growing by the day.

Other suspensions include the Elm Fork John Brown Gun Club (EFJBGC), which called for the protection of LGBTQ+ events in Texas; Vishal Singh, an independent journalist covering protests, far-right extremism, and law enforcement; and @WANaziWatch, which tracks neo-Nazi activity. The journalist Chad Loder was suspended, reinstated, and then permanently suspended. @EliErlick appears to have been locked out for violating the Twitter rules against “hateful conduct” solely for posting the message “Elon Musk should pay taxes.”

Immediately before this wave of bans, Musk tweeted “there is not one permanent ban on even the most far left account spouting utter lies.” Regardless of whether that was true when he posted it, he rendered it false within a couple of days.

At the same time that he has imposed a wave of permanent suspensions on left accounts, Musk has welcomed fascists back to Twitter. As soon as he took over Twitter, avowed neo-Nazis were reinstated to the platform—including Brett Stevens, the blogger who inspired Anders Breivik to murder 77 people. Stevens was suspended by Twitter in 2018; since being reinstated, he has used the platform to spread hatred against Jewish people, women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ communities while calling on white men to “seize power” and “relocate all other ethnic groups.”

Musk has suggested that he is preparing to reinstate previously banned users en masse. “It appears that Twitter will be welcoming back fascists, racists, and other far-right users while arbitrarily banning those who oppose fascism and racism,” said Leigh Young of the CrimethInc. Collective.

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Agency promotes contemporary anarchist perspectives and practices through commentary, media relations, and educational campaigns.

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