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By Jason Michael
Political sleaze stories are news, but bigger news is when Twitter and other social media platforms get involved to help governments bury the stories. This is what’s happening with the 36 Tories scandal right now.
There is no doubt the latest Tory sleaze scandal – considering the source of the leaked document containing the names of 36 Conservative MPs and details of their “inappropriate” behaviour was the Guido Fawkes blog – is intended as a distraction from the omnishambles the London government is making of Brexit. Nevertheless, on the principle that we should never look a gift horse in the mouth, we should make hay while the sun shines and use this as an opportunity to remind people that this is the calibre of people we have running Britain.
Britain is governed, as it always has been, by a political establishment comprised of wealthy and entitled men who see those beneath them – both women and men – as nothing more than meat for their sexual enjoyment. This list gives us an assortment of men in power, including the Foreign and Defence Secretaries, who are invariably “inappropriate” with female and male researches. We read of those who have paid to be filmed being urinated on, impregnating employees, pressuring their victims to have abortions, and generally behaving like drunken barnyard animals. This is what happens when our political brass comes almost exclusively from “those sorts of schools.”
This is not mere salacious gossip for public titillation. This is evidence of the corruption that runs right to the heart of the Westminster political establishment, and it is crucial that people – the people who vote them into power – know what sort of people these men (and some women) are. Guido Fawkes, intending to create just enough of a stir to keep people distracted for a while, released a redacted copy of the spreadsheet it had obtained. No names appeared on the document, meaning that ultimately nothing could come of the revelations. But the internet doesn’t allow secrets to be kept for long.
Through the afternoon today some enterprising anonymous user on 4Chan posted an unredacted copy. From this moment on the truth was out, and there was nothing the government, Guido Fawkes, or anyone else could do about it. The people in Whitehall who put Guido Fawkes up to posting the story must have been kicking themselves; the “leak” had been leaked.
What had until this point been a non-story – a carefully stage managed stunt from within the Tory hierarchy – had become news. We know it is news when the internet knows all about it and still the BBC, Sky News, and Channel 4 refuse to cover it. “Guffers” – @gavmacn – was the first to share the list on Twitter. At the Butterfly Rebellion we followed his lead. Shortly thereafter everyone was sharing it. The cat was out of the bag.
Now you’d be forgiven for thinking that the story had broken, that there was nothing the powers that be could do to stifle what they had originally only intended to be a tantalising sniff of the truth. But you’d be wrong. Twitter locked the Butterfly Rebellion account, threatening us with permanent suspension from the platform if we did not delete the tweet. The same happened to Guffers, “Cyber Intelligence 4” – @CyberIntel4 – and a number of others. Everyone and anyone caught sharing the image was being locked out and threatened with the deletion of their account. Twitter was actively colluding with the British establishment to remove the story from the internet.
What this reveals – and absolutely the most scandalous detail of this story – is that social media platforms the likes of Twitter and Facebook are now well within government control. We were led to believe that social media had levelled the playing field between big government and ordinary everyday people. Maybe that was the case in the recent past, but this has changed. Governments – as we are learning from the involvement of Russia in the Brexit vote and in the last US presidential election – have cottoned on to the danger [posed to them] of our use of social media and the internet.
Mass online surveillance was only the beginning of their attempts to seize control of the web. They have moved from watching to manipulative participation to outright control of the platforms – all to maintain control over the narrative. There is no greater threat to power than freedom of speech and the free circulation of information. They know this as well as we do, but they have the resources to shut us down wherever and whenever we overstep the mark.
Should we be upset with Twitter or any other platform for allowing this to happen? Absolutely, but we should always remember that these are businesses and are thus to a greater or lesser extent on the side of government – especially in the west. This is why we should stick to that principle of making hay while the sun shines. Right now the internet offers us the opportunity to speak truth to power, to challenge the government establishments that have for so long sought to control us and manipulate us. Yet that window is closing, and we will see it closed. We can make other arrangements the closer we come to that day, but in the meantime we have to keep on doing what we are doing.
Alternatives are coming online. They are far from perfect, but they are improving. No doubt in time these too will be compromised. We are fighting power structures that will stop at nothing to get what they want, but this must never deter us from continuing the struggle against them and using whatever channel is available to us to expose their corruption and abuses. The alternative to this is far worse.
The social media that we are using as activists has served its purpose and it has been wonderful, but these platforms were never really our friends. They were tools and nothing more. Considering that the state has them in its grasp, these platforms are fast becoming obsolete. If we are to continue doing what we are doing then it is about time we started thinking about migrating to safer places online, perhaps even building our own platforms for our purposes. Surely someone in Scotland has the skills and the knowhow to do something about this.
Web Censorship, Sanctuary Cities, Gavin 4 Prez
2 thoughts on “Twitter Will Not Tolerate Political Tweets”
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After being in Catalonia for the referendum last month and seeing that they had Plans A-Z using encrypted WhatsApp, I agree that we need a safer place online to share our views. I brought this up with National Yes Registry for their IndyApp and they said that it was something they would think about in time if the need arose. Not the same as Twitter, I know, but a start.
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