2018/02/26

AmRen v Twitter

Twitter smartphone app

In the comments on last week's post about the Twitter Lock Out, I called for legal action against the censorious tyrants in Big Tech. Many readers echoed that sentiment.

Well, ask and ye shall receive.
A group of free-speech lawyers filed the most serious legal challenge yet to Twitter’s censorship policies Tuesday in San Francisco County Superior Court, seeking a ruling preventing Twitter from banning users purely on the basis of their views and political associations.
The 29-page complaint contends that, under a California legal doctrine that recognizes some private facilities as “public forums,” Twitter may not discriminate against speech on their platform based purely on viewpoint. If successful, it would be the first extension of that doctrine to internet social media platforms and could transform the way free speech is treated online. The suit became all the more relevant Wednesday as Twitter stood accused of locking out thousands of conservatives under the guise of cracking down on “Russian bots.”
It looks like some ordinary Conservative citizen finally got fed up with being pushed around by the Ctrl-Left and decided to fight back.

Or does it?
One of those purged is Jared Taylor, founder and editor of “American Renaissance,” a fringe-right journal on race and immigration. He is frequently described as an “extremist” and a “white supremacist” by left-wing groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the latter of which sits on Twitter’s “Trust and Safety Council,” the largely leftist group of activists and non-profits Twitter assembled in 2016 to help decide which speech to censor.
Taylor is a graduate of Yale University and Paris’s Sciences Po, the former West Coast editor of PC Magazine, and author of several books. He describes himself as a “white advocate” or “race realist” and condemns Nazism and antisemitism.
According to the complaint, in his more than six years on Twitter, Taylor never made threats, harassed anyone, or otherwise came under scrutiny for his behavior on the platform. Even the SPLC notes Taylor “scrupulously avoided racist epithets [and] employed the language of academic journals” in his writings, and Taylor once wrote an article urging people to be more civil on Twitter.
Friendly advice to Conservatives: It may once have been unthinkable, but the Alt-Right is poised to take the moral high ground from you on free speech issues. If you don't want that to happen, I strongly suggest that you stop hiding behind the "Private companies can ban whoever they want!" canard and consider doing something for a change.

Speaking of which, it turns out private companies can't ban whoever they want, at least not in California.
“If you’re the functional equivalent of a traditional public forum … even the private company that owns it can’t prohibit common expressive activities completely … they can’t selectively kick people out and allow certain people to speak and not others,” Peters explained of California’s unique privately owned public forum doctrine.
A loyal reader of this blog who also happens to be a legal expert examined Taylor's complaint and concluded that he's got a strong case. I'm just a layman, but it looks pretty open-and-shut to me.

That's not to say Taylor's legal victory is assured. You can bet the San Francisco court will be biased against him. But even if he loses, this case is win-win for all of us second-class Twittizens.
  • This could go all the way to the Supreme Court on appeal. I'm informed that the high court would almost certainly refuse to hear the case since it's based on California state law, but the amount of national attention generated would shine a bright, cleansing light on Twitter's dirty operation.
  • Discovery will be enlightening for us and deeply embarrassing for Twitter, regardless of the initial outcome.
  • Twitter definitely doesn't want the emails, memos, and recorded statements proving how it really decides to ban users aired in open court. Therefore they'll probably try to settle out of court. Which AmRen can spin into a PR coup by declaring that they're funded by Twitter.
Combined with James Damore's upcoming suit against Google, the picture isn't looking so rosy for Big Tech. Here's hoping some more civic-minded folks step up to keep the pressure on.

3 comments:

  1. Brian,

    Interesting because Jon's lawyer is taking a very similar approach. I wonder if just to make a bad day worse, all the lawyers will throw in: adhesionary contract in consumer protection law.

    OOOO that would get a judge's attention. By analogy, Big tech services are akin to public transport; ergo adhesionary contracts are interpreted restrictively and in the CONSUMER'S favour.

    I really hope that besides constitutional law, the lawyer use civil law (specifically contract law and everything derivative thereof and consumer protection) Big tech will have a difficult time explaining away abusive, onerous and unilateral clauses within contractual/consumer protection laws
    xavier

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