As you may already be aware, I’m a big fan of free speech. I supported the ACLU when they defended hate groups and even when they stood up for corporate speech. I agree wholeheartedly with their statement in defense of unpopular organizations:
It is easy to defend freedom of speech when the message is something many people find at least reasonable. But the defense of freedom of speech is most critical when the message is one most people find repulsive. That was true when the Nazis marched in Skokie. It remains true today.
These days most of us do most of our unpopular messaging online rather than marching down the street, and the greatest threats to such speech are not government authorities but rather those who seek to prevent us from having access to open digital spaces such as social media. I don’t mean people who shut you out of their own spaces, e.g. blocking you from posting on their Facebook page, or from commenting on their blog. Everyone should be able to control who gets to access their own personal spaces, obviously. I do refer to those who endeavor to get others suspended from using their own accounts to access digital spaces.
You might well expect that freethinkers value critical thinking and open dialogue too much to engage in that sort of behavior, but you would be wrong. There is a tool called “The Block Bot” to which twitter users may subscribe if they don’t want to have to interact with either radical feminists or equity feminists who have somehow run afoul of Atheism Plus orthodoxy. By subscribing, users give the bot’s admins permission to choose whom they will block. This is an oddly mixed case, wherein people are seemingly acting so as to preserve their own spaces, but their collective action has the effect of shutting others completely out.
So far, I have found and documented at least a dozen accounts which were suspended after being mass-blocked by the block bots . My list is woefully incomplete, and the Bot programmers have thus far refused to release their complete list of suspended accounts. Presumably this is because they hope to maintain the illusion that the bot does not significantly influence Twitter’s inscrutable and undisclosed suspension algorithms. Of course, we can safely assume that they aren’t withholding that sort of information because it would exonerate them.
I’m not even sure whether A+ would want to be exonerated, to be honest. Their collective defense to the problem of Twitter suspensions seemed to be twofold: (1) No one can prove that the bot was a contributing factor in those suspensions and (2) some of the worst people who got suspended really had it coming. Evidently, they are so confident in the righteousness of their cause that they have no concerns about who gets silenced in the process. Or to put it in their own formula for inflammatory paraphrase:
Shorter A+: We are delighted to mete out vigliante justice, and anyhow we were wearing masks at the time.
Then again, maybe I’m being unfair to the supporters of the bot. Perhaps they can morally justify the permanent supension of each and every person who is currently suspended and may be found on their as-yet-unreleased complete list of dead blocks. If so, I will happily retract and eat a big plate of crow.