On October 28, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Mark Morgan was busy tweeting updates on the construction of new portions of the border wall and how America was kept safer by having a “multi-layered, risk-based approach to border security.” Within hours, The Federalist was first to report, Twitter locked Morgan’s official government account because he hweeted that “every mile of wall helps us stop gang members, murderers, sexual predators, and drugs from entering our country” had somehow run afoul of the platform’s “hateful conduct” rules.
“You may not promote violence against, threaten, or harass other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease,” explained official Twitter told Morgan in an email.
Maybe it was adding, “It’s a fact, walls work” to the end of his tweet that caused the Twitter reviewers to clutch their pearls.
When asked by CNN what was so offensive about Morgan’s tweet, a company spokesperson told the media outlet, “Our teams review Tweets and accounts based on reports we receive from people on Twitter around the globe.”
Was the blocking of the chief’s account shameless political censorship or merely an unfortunate consequence of changes Twitter has implemented prior to the election?
When he was finally unblocked, the border chief made clear in a statement released on Twitter that the blocking showed “clear bias against the administration and their blatant censorship of anything that may go against the policies of those who sit in cubicles in Silicon Valley.”
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has consistently insisted in testimony before Congress that his publicly-traded social media company does not censor conservatives – even falsely claiming so again this week in Senate hearings. Dorsey was pressed on why President Trump has had tweets taken down but other offensive comments have remained on the platform.
For example, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei repeatedly calls the destruction of Israel and just yesterday denied the Holocaust occurred, but has not been locked. In his October 28 testimony, Dorsey said Twitter does not have “a policy against that type of misleading information,” including denial of the Holocaust.
But the silencing of viewpoints, censorship and efforts to shame Americans into political submission, particularly on the issue of immigration, has been on the increase even before Donald Trump was elected.
While some small organizations and media outlets had initiated campaigns to end the use of the correct term, “illegal alien,” it did not gain real steam until one of the two primary resources for journalists took a step down the slippery slope. In 2013, the Associated Press Stylebook, a reference on grammatical and stylistic issues, announced plans to change “how we describe people living in a country illegally.”
According to the Stylebook’s Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll, even “undocumented” was unacceptable because an illegal alien “”may have plenty of documents, just not the ones required for legal residence.”
The final, updated definition is even harder to stomach.
“Illegal immigration Entering or residing in a country in violation of civil or criminal law. Except in direct quotes essential to the story, use illegal only to refer to an action, not a person: illegal immigration, but not illegal immigrant. Acceptable variations include living in or entering a country illegally or without legal permission,” reads the AP Stylebook (emphasis in original).
An alien is as defined in 8 U.S.C. §1101 (a)(3), “any person not a citizen or national of the United States.” It is the correct legal term, the appropriate designation in government materials and was used multiple times in the majority opinion issued by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito earlier this year.
The battle over that term was a precursor of a broader, more aggressive campaign by social media companies to censor or limit an open debate about the consequences of illegal immigration was triggered by Donald Trump’s candidacy.
In 2016, staff at Facebook were so outraged by posts from then-candidate Trump calling for a ban on immigrants from countries with known terrorist connections that they sought to delete them for violating “hate speech” rules. The dispute escalated to the top level, but Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg ended up ruling that the Trump posts would remain.
Over the last three years, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) experienced firsthand the Twitter’s evolving standards when the think tank was blocked from paid promotion of tweets from the official CIS account. The grounds, once again, were that the tweets contained “hateful content.”
The most recent ad blocked, according to CIS, “suggested the Border Patrol fingerprint and photograph unaccompanied minors crossing the border, for their own safety.” One of the first paid tweets rejected by Twitter in 2017 simply stated that “illegal immigrants are a large net fiscal drain because of their education levels” and shared a link to an analysis weighing the costs of deportation versus the costs of illegal immigration.