If you are a white supremacist, Twitter will provide a safe haven for you.
Jason Kessler, for example, was awarded the “blue checkmark”, validation that he’s someone on Twitter. He’s the guy who created the Charlottesville white supremacist rally that resulted in one of its participants running down a woman, killing her.
Kessler’s checkmark came about a month after Twitter promised to crack down on the hate that is amplified by Twitter.
When Twitter chooses to exercise its authority, however, is a complete mystery to most reasonable people.
Take Kara Lynum, the St. Paul lawyer who represents immigrants.
She heard that Stephen Miller, the architect of President Trump’s child separation policy, was going to be in the Twin Cities. So she challenged him to a race, called him a racist, and gave out his phone number.
That, according to Twitter, was over the line.
This screenshot – except the other one had Stephen Miller’s then-publicly-available phone number – got me banned from Twitter for 12 hours for “publishing private information.” pic.twitter.com/uEKHBh4GFp
— Kara Lynum (@karalynum) June 21, 2018
Splinter News says anyone who retweeted its tweet which first listed the phone number — that included Lynum’s invitation for Miller to prove his immigration chops — were banned from Twitter as punishment for tweeting Miller’s phone number.
So other Twitter users started tweeting links to websites with Miller’s phone number.
Twitter suspended accounts that called attention to Twitter’s suspensions.
“Meanwhile, Twitter remains a place where users are regularly subjected to harassment based on their sexuality, religion, race, or having a wrong opinion that day. For the moment, it seems Jack Dorsey is much more interested in placating conservative users, who’ve long claimed the platform is biased against them,” Splinter said.
“We are aware of this and are taking appropriate action on content that violates our Terms of Service,” a spokesperson for Twitter said when asked by BuzzFeed to try to make some sense of the inconsistencies in the company’s application of standards.
Whether intentional or not, Splinter’s decision to publish Miller’s number illustrates the tenuous position Twitter is in after years of arbitrary rule enforcement. Twitter has been dogged for years by its inability to effectively curb harassment on its platform and for allowing bad actors to game its report system to use its policing tools against upstanding users. A major media outlet posting private information thereby forces Twitter to enforce its rules in a public and potentially unpopular way. (The Splinter piece notes that Trump himself has publicly shared the personal phone numbers of both Sen. Lindsey Graham and Univision anchor Jorge Ramos. In the case of Ramos, whose number was shared via Trump’s Instagram, the post was taken down.)
The decision to lock out users who tweet Miller’s number raises a number of new questions for Twitter, among them: Now that the number is out in the public, how far will the company go in removing the hundreds of tweets and locking accounts of the very many users who have tweeted it? Similarly, when does Miller’s number — now out in the open — become public information, if ever? David Klion, a freelance journalist whose account was locked Wednesday after tweeting Miller’s number, told BuzzFeed News he found his punishment odd, considering that Splinter had effectively made Miller’s information public before he tweeted it.
Twitter has since said it’s stopped locking out users who tweeted Miller’s number because he’s changed the number.