The activism community was shocked recently by the news that Twitter had permanently suspended UK-based activist, Lauri Love. Love recently won a landmark case in a drawn-out legal battle against extradition to the United States. Following the suspension, human rights activists commenced calls for Love’s account to be reinstated immediately, to no avail at the time of writing.
Last month, UK Judges ruled against the United States’ effort to extradite Love to the US, on the grounds that extraditing him would be: “Oppressive by reason of his physical and mental condition.” The finding is likely to have an ongoing effect, possibly setting legal precedent for future extradition cases.
FairTrials.org wrote of the importance of the finding: “Love was facing criminal allegations in the United States despite never having visited the country, and he also had significant mental health issues that could deteriorate considerably if he were extradited… The High Court’s ruling on Lauri Love’s case yesterday provides welcome relief and hope to UK extradition lawyers and campaigners. ”
Prior to the landmark legal ruling, FreeLauri.com related that the charges against Love stemmed from: “His alleged participation in #OpLastResort, the series of online protests that followed the persecution and untimely death of Aaron Swartz.” The site also reports that Love was pursued by the US criminal justice system for: “Allegedly protesting abuses of that same system, with prosecutors in three US court districts accusing Lauri of hacking into various government websites.”
This highlight an issue which corporate media outlets are loathe to discuss. That is, the alleged activities represented a protest against a corrupt Judicial system. Instead of being described as an activist, Lauri is often portrayed by the press as a cyber terrorist.
Love’s successful fight against extradition to the United States might not have been possible if Twitter’s decision to suspend his account had come a mere six months earlier. In a conversation with Disobedient Media, Love explained his anger at the ban, as well as the implications it has for other activists to gain public support. Love described the situation to this author:
“It’s absurd, is clearly the result of malicious reporting (ie, gaming the abuse system) and it has ultimately benefited obnoxious interests of people like Louise Mensch and those running political troll and bot accounts.”
“It is especially troubling as an activist, who has recently depended heavily on the platform to organize a campaign which help narrowly save my entire life from being destroyed by extradition to the USA –had this malicious reporting been successful six months or a year ago then I might not be here now because we may have lost our legal battle as a result of not being able to organise and engage in outreach.
Silencing of activists by highly powerful centralisers of internet usage, who treat their users like product and go out of their ways to pamper advertisers and governments is incredibly troubling from the point of view of internet freedoms, and democratic values more generally.”
The censorship imposed on Love is extremely important, and as he points out, could have had a concrete impact on his ability to fight against extradition if differently timed. Such a suspension would have cut him from the support of over ten thousand followers on Twitter. In this way, social media censorship can absolutely represent a political tactic used to inflict real-life consequences for those affected, far beyond the inability to post a few pithy soundbites.
This is also true of Twitter’s ongoing, inexplicable unwillingness to verify the account of Julian Assange, leaving mediocre journalists from legacy media outlets to stupidly or maliciously misattribute sentiments to Assange that are published by a series of endless copy-cat accounts, which Assange has likened to a ‘black PR campaign.’
Twitter’s latest crackdown illustrates a blatant, two-tiered application of the Twitter rules on the platform which is plainly visible in a recent exchange between Love and John Podesta. Podesta served as Chief of Staff for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 Presidential Campaign. He previously served in Bill Clinton’s Administration as Chief of Staff, as well as a role in the Obama Whitehouse as as a Counselor to the President. The contrast here between Podesta as a political insider versus Love, an activist opposed to the corrupt system Podesta inhabits, and whom the State has attempted to prosecute, is stark.
This power imbalance between a member of the elite versus a protestor makes it all the more compelling when one considers that, though Podesta Tweeted what appears to have been a rather overt threat towards President Trump’s son-in-law, his Twitter account has suffered no repercussions whatsoever. Podesta Tweeted in regards to Kushner: “Seems like those “unnamed sources peddling second-hand hearsay with rank speculation that continue to leak inaccurate information,” came straight from 1600 Penn. Jared better start wearing his kevlar on his back [Emphasis Added].”
Although Lauri’s tweets have been universally erased across the Twittersphere thanks to the recent suspension, Love’s response to John Podesta’s eyebrow-raising jab at a member of the first family lives on in the record of archival services. Love replied directly to Podesta’s remarks, prophetically pointing out that he would not be able to use such language without consequence:
Less than a month later, Love’s remarks are borne out in full. Lauri Love has been permanently suspended while Podesta remains untouched by even a temporary Twitter restriction. This disparity in treatment embodies the escalating and overt hypocrisy on the part of the platform and raises serious questions as to the motivation governing the application of the Twitter rules.
This is especially true, in that the mass-reporting of Love’s account was initiated on the basis of a fallacious, non-existed “threat” against the President, which Lauri and his supporters have characterized as the work of a botnet, while Podesta’s very real remarks were aimed at a member of the President’s family, yet failed to elicit so much as a murmur from legacy media or Twitter administrators.
Adding a layer of significance to Love’s suspension is the erasure of tweets expressing thanks towards the Courage Foundation and Julian Assange, as a co-founder of the foundation. Suzie Dawson preserved a screenshot of the tweet in her recent work, Being Julian Assange. If she had not documented these sentiments they would have been irrevocably lost.
One of the profound points in Dawson’s text is that the public’s perception of history regarding activists and entities like Wikileaks is repeatedly stripped of all significant pillars of support. She explained that this process occurs via the excision of the historical record to fit an establishment narrative.
Dawson eloquently described this dynamic: “This industrialised historical revisionism requires the excoriating of the public reputation of the virtuous, the sanitising of the compromised, and the constant manipulation of the living memory of both.These are the core tenets of manufacturing consent.“
After Dawson’s article was published, Love posted a number of tweets calling for the removal of Micah Lee from the board of the Freedom of the Press Foundation. Love wrote: “I try not to mince words or bandy about the point. Micah is an active threat to press freedoms, whistleblowers and the fragile dialectic that allows both to survive in the face of intense state, spook and corporate attempts to destroy them. Micah is not with us. he must go.”
By permanently banning Lauri’s account, Twitter is once again working to alter history by cutting away all trace of his support for The Courage Foundation, Wikileaks and the cause of truth. This is absolutely unacceptable.
Dawson presented Love’s Tweets in her work as a specific example of a still-intact-history of success in activism and support for Wikileaks. Dawson wrote:
“Lauri’s homage to those who dedicated years of their life to supporting him is laudable and the effort to emancipate him from the extradition threat has established an important legal precedent. By contrast, much of the digital history detailing the genesis of the campaign to free Chelsea Manning has vanished. Many of the key contributions of her original supporters have been bleached from the record.”
Unfortunately, this description of erasure now applies to Lauri Love.
Love’s suspension is not the only recent and appalling example of overt hypocrisy from Twitter. The platform’s inexplicable decision to suspend Love followed closely in the wake of additional temporary bans implemented against independent and anti-establishment thinkers, including journalist Caitlin Johnstone.
The suspension of Lauri’s Twitter account followed closely after the imposition of a week-long ban on the Twitter account of independent Journalist Caitlin Johnstone. The punishment was meted out because her response to being labeled a “closet Nazi” included referring to her cyber-assailants as “dumb” and “stupid.” The fact that this language resulted in Johnstone being temporarily banned is yet another case of the victim of harassment being silenced.
Consider the gulf between Caitlin’s words and the death threat made by Podesta towards the family member of a sitting President. That Caitlin, Lauri Love and others are arbitrarily silenced while threats made by the privileged go unaddressed fuels speculation that Twitter’s application of its own rules has become an obvious means of quashing anti-plutocratic dissent.
Disobedient Media has consistently provided coverage of the escalating censorship of independent and anti-establishment voices across numerous platforms. This author will continue to report on such flagrant censorship as it occurs.