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Brendan O’Neill

Why does Twitter think Russian lies are OK but Trump isn’t?

Why does Twitter think Russian lies are OK but Trump isn't?
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So on Twitter you can lie about war crimes but you cannot tell the truth about biology? That is the only conclusion one can draw from Twitter’s decision to leave up a vile, false tweet posted by Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The tweet says the massacres in Bucha are made up. They didn’t happen. The photos and videos of dead bodies on the streets are all part of a ‘hoax’ drawn up by ‘the Kiev regime’, it says.

This is a lie. Russia’s claim that the bodies were dumped in the streets by Ukrainian forces after Russian troops had withdrawn, all in an effort to demonise Russia as a commissioner of war crimes, is entirely without foundation. Indeed, a New York Times investigation of satellite imagery has confirmed that many of the bodies were lying in the streets for more than three weeks, back when Russian forces were still occupying Bucha. Not content with brutalising and murdering Ukrainian people, the Russian regime now tries to cover its tracks with lies. This is despicable.

And yet the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ tweet is still there, for the world to see. Sure, it’s hidden behind a warning – ‘This tweet violated the Twitter Rules about abusive behaviour’ — but one click will take you through to the odious disinformation, to Russia’s lies, to Russian officials effectively dancing on the graves of the Ukrainians their military forces killed.

Let’s remind ourselves that this is Twitter we’re talking about. A platform that permanently expelled Graham Linehan after he said ‘men aren’t women tho’ in response to a tweet by the Women’s Institute wishing its trans members ‘Happy Pride’. A platform that slapped a lifetime ban on feminist writer Meghan Murphy after she referred to Jessica Yaniv – a born male who achieved notoriety when he sued female beauticians for refusing to wax his pubic area – as ‘he’.

It’s really worth taking stock of this. According to the moral overlords of Silicon Valley, stating biological facts is a speechcrime deserving of punishment, whereas lying about the heinous crimes you committed during your invasion of a sovereign state only requires the attachment of a warning. Saying ‘men aren’t women’ could see you cast into the wilderness forever; saying ‘Bucha is a hoax’ will get you a slap on the wrist.

Twitter’s justification for refusing to censor the tweet posted by Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is that it is ‘in the public’s interest’ for the tweet to be accessible. As it happens, I agree with this. It is essential that we all know what Russian officialdom is thinking and saying right now. And we should have the right to see their lies as well as the other stuff they’re coming out with. Censorship of political representatives is never a good idea. It demeans democracy and open, informed discussion.

And yet it is also clearly in the public interest to allow feminists to express their concerns about transgenderism and what it might mean for women’s rights. It is in the public interest to allow people to question identity politics, or to express scepticism about lockdowns, or to bristle against policies of mass immigration. We may agree or disagree with these ideas, but we all benefit from their free expression, because it gives us the opportunity to engage in discussion, to push back, to refine our own thinking. In other words, freedom of speech itself is in the public interest, and the sooner Silicon Valley realises this, the better.

Even Twitter’s privileging of comments made by government representatives is alarmingly inconsistent. Donald Trump, for instance, was notably not afforded the ‘public interest’ protection that Twitter has given to the deceitful warmongers of the Russian regime. When Trump was still the sitting president of the United States he was banned from Twitter after he allegedly incited the Capitol rioters. The Russian government, criminal invader of Ukraine, and the Taliban, violent oppressor of women and minorities, remain on Twitter, while Trump is still banned after he tweeted about the ‘75,000,000 great American patriots who voted for me’. What a terrible moral knot the internet elites have tied themselves in.

My view is very simple: no one should be banned from social media. Yes, explicit incitements to violence should be removed, given they are illegal. But when it comes to the expression of ideas and beliefs – whether that’s good-faith criticisms of the trans worldview or lowlife lies from a foreign government – leave it up. Let us see it. Let us talk about it and make our own views known. That Twitter privileges the free expression of Russian warmongers while banning Trump and censoring feminists shows the extent to which it has been corrupted by political correctness. The social-media giants urgently need to reacquaint themselves with the ideals of freedom and reason.