Promoted from the diaries by streiff. Promotion does not imply endorsement.
Thirty years ago, millions of Chinese peacefully demonstrated for freedom and democracy in Tiananmen Square and all across China. What began with small groups of students rapidly swelled as millions from all walks of life joined in.
The peaceful demonstrations featured signs supporting democracy, and in Tiananmen Square people made a statue reminiscent of the Statue of Liberty and named it the “Goddess of Democracy and Freedom.” Amid the rising sense of freedom in eastern Europe at the same time, it seemed freedom was blossoming in totalitarian regimes across the world. Indeed, the Berlin Wall fell on November 9, 1989, and with unbelievable speed and nearly without bloodshed, the Communist regimes fell forever in eastern Europe and then in the Soviet Union itself.
The Chinee people and everyone around the world watched the growing millions with elation and love in late May and the first days of June in 1989. Could peaceful citizens succeed in ending the bloody regime that massacred at least 65 million of their citizens under dictator Mao? It seemed like it could!
However, on the 4th of June, 1989, the butchers of Beijing rolled the tanks, slaughtering at least 10,000 in Beijing and unknown numbers at similar demonstrations all across the country. The military and police rounded up huge numbers for arrest and execution. Many vanished without a trace and may be dead, killed for their organs or still suffering in concentration camps.
I stood in Tiananmen Square early one morning in 2014, and as I watched smiling Chinese students innocently touring the sight of the massacre, I looked around and saw with my mind the square in 1989, filled with many the same age as the school groups near me, yet the 1989 students were rallying for freedom and democracy. I saw with my mind the tanks rolling and the guns firing. And I cried. I cried for their hopes and dreams and I cried that today’s students have absolutely no clue that millions stood on that square trying to bring freedom to their children and future generations.
I later wrote an article about that moment, “I cried at Tiananmen Square.” Give it a quick read on this dark anniversary.
Fast forward to today, the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, when Twitter is in the news for suspending the accounts of thousands of people who support freedom and democracy in China, including prominent human rights leaders and activists.
In a defensive series of Tweets, Twitter claimed that this was a just a side effect of deleting ‘bot’ type accounts, but the timing just before the most terrible human rights atrocity in recent Chinese history speaks volumes. The most damning admission is “some of these were involved in commentary about China. These accounts were not mass reported by the Chinese authorities — this was a routine action on our part.”
Twitter Public Policy @Policy
“As part of these efforts, we suspended a number of accounts this week. A significant proportion for engaging in a mix of spamming, inauthentic behavior, & ban evasion, all of which are violations of the Twitter Rules — regardless of the content being shared or views expressed.
However, some of these were involved in commentary about China. These accounts were not mass reported by the Chinese authorities — this was a routine action on our part.”
“Sometimes our routine actions catch false positives or we make errors. We apologize. We’re working today to ensure we overturn any errors but that we remain vigilant in enforcing our rules for those who violate them. As always, account holders can appeal:”
By the way–and you can’t make this stuff up–just the day before, Twitter claimed “freedom of expression is a core Twitter value.”
“Freedom of expression is a core Twitter value – and we share that value with human rights advocates from around the world. #OsloFF“
So Twitter appears to be proactively seeking and suspending or cancelling accounts of people commenting about China? For shame. By the way, note that Twitter did NOT promise this could never happen again, and their apology was shockingly weak. The company claimed that this was a side effect of deleting ‘bot’ type accounts, but the timing just before the most terrible human rights atrocity in recent Chinese history speaks volumes.
Why does this matter so much?
Censorship has always been a tool of dictatorships, but the free press and internet were always the antidote to repression. Today, the internet is being increasingly censored, ‘shadow banned’ and silenced by the tech communication companies voluntarily in favor of or at the demand of the dictatorships and those in free nations who wish to silence opposition to their repressive agenda or to defeat candidates that do not support their apparent socialist goals.
It was the western tech companies that helped China build their “Great Firewall” of censorship. Google censored the internet for China for a few years and is reportedly still working on what might be the most advanced censorship engine in the world. Facebook has also been trying to get into China by building a censored version. Google and Apple both banned VPNs from their Chinese app stores to help block Chinese from getting forbidden news from abroad–such as how the world today mourns the Tiananmen Massacre.
Western tech companies actively aiding tyranny is not a new thing. IBM used the most advanced technology of the day in directly leasing, maintaining and programming their Hollerith tabulators in Nazi German. They were used to identify where Jewish citizens lived and were used in their death camps–read “IBM and the Holocaust” and this terrifying update for more about how they voluntarily used their high tech for tyranny and genocide.
Tyranny isn’t just built by tyrants and guns. Today it’s built in part by tech communications companies directly censoring any opposition. As perspective, Wikipedia reports that Auschwitz was “the first concentration camp to be financed and built by private industry.” Such companies may be eager to do the same here, and by the time their censorship is complete, it will be too for freedom-minded individuals to learn the truth and mount an opposition. Yes, it could happen here, and the post-Holocaust warning applies here too: “never forget.”
The First Amendment and the basic human right to free speech are under global assault threat mass communications and news today are almost entirely based
At best, Twitter is helping enable tyranny abroad and trying to defeat President Trump by its actions and/or carelessness. At worst, perhaps you could say Twitter is massacring free speech. And doing so on the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre.
Twitter, for God’s sake, restore these anti-Chinese tyranny accounts and don’t do this again! You should be promoting Tweets on the horrors of Tiananmen Square, not banning them to perhaps beg Beijing into letting you to operate a fully censored version in China, one that would by Chinese law be required to turn over for arrest all who write anything forbidden (which includes mentioning the Tiananmen Square Massacre and even calling Xi Jinping “Winnie the Pooh”).
On this 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, it is time for all tech communications platforms to agree to fully support freedom and democracy. To not do business in totalitarian countries unless they can run a secure, uncensored system where people can freely communicate without fear of arrest for criticizing their government. To never build instruments of tyranny. To develop anti-censorship/firewall tools to help spread the truth to those blocked from news of the world by censorship systems such as China’s “Great Firewall.” And to stop censoring and ‘shadow banning’ political opinions in the U.S. and around the world that they don’t like, such as from supporters of President Trump. @TwitterForGood must also include supporting, not hindering human rights and freedom of speech around the world.
That’s not a lot to ask, especially as Americans just commemorated Memorial Day, honoring so many soldiers who paid the ultimate price in defending the freedom that allowed the tech companies to build their companies.
Today, June 4, would be an ideal day for all tech communications companies to fully join the side of those dedicated to supporting freedom and human rights worldwide.
Art Harman is the President of the Coalition to Save Manned Space Exploration. He was the Legislative Director and foreign policy advisor for Rep. Stockman (R-Texas) in the 113th Congress, and is a veteran policy analyst and grass-roots political expert. His expertise includes foreign relations, border security/amnesty, national security, transportation, foreign broadcasting and NASA/space policy. He has travelled the world and been behind the Iron Curtain during the Soviet era, witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall, and stood in the footprints of those who sacrificed everything for freedom at Tiananmen Square.
Mr. Harman developed the strategy to kill the 2013 Senate “gang of eight” amnesty bill as violating the Constitution’s Origination Clause, and provided policy advice to the Trump campaign, transition and the White House. He wrote what became the ‘bible’ for post-Brexit trade relations which was introduced in 2016 by Sen. Mike Lee as S. 3123, the United Kingdom Trade Continuity Act. Harman is a frequent guest on radio shows on key policy issues, and is an expert fine-arts photographer.