Open letter to CEO of Twitter, Parag Agrawal

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Written by: Miri
August 5, 2022
 | 4 Comments

Dear Parag,

I am writing to you in your capacity as the CEO of Twitter, regarding my recent summary dismissal from the platform due to - so Twitter alleges - spreading misleading and potentially harmful information about COVID-19.

I attach for your perusal the email I received from Twitter (see footer), alerting me to the permanent suspension of my account, and informing me that any attempt to create a replacement account would result in another immediate and permanent ban.

This is an exceptionally heavy-handed and draconian approach, regarding an "offence" Twitter has yet to clearly identify to me. I am informed that I have disseminated "misinformation" so heinous that it could harm people, but am not given the courtesy of being informed what that information is - which, obviously, makes it impossible for me to review the information in question to clarify whether I agree with Twitter that it is "misleading and potentially harmful", and therefore adjust my views.

As Twitter has not specified what my objectionable views are, nor how and why Twitter believes they will cause harm to others, I am forced to doubt that such altruistic concern for others' wellbeing is the true motivation of Twitter in suspending my account.

In the first instance, I am confident that no self-respecting adult who utilises the Twitter service expects Twitter to take any responsibility for their health and wellbeing. This would be a ludicrous abdication of personal responsibility on the part of the user, and utterly infantilising overreach on the part of Twitter (which is a jaunty social media platform, and not a board-certified health professional).

When one functions in the world as an autonomous adult, one constantly encounters information that may be considered upsetting, offensive, or even harmful - and we must all be empowered to deal with this information in an effective way. Social media platforms attempting to shield us from ever seeing objectionable views simply disempowers and infantilises us, as this does not stop these views from existing, nor does it prevent us from encountering them elsewhere (such as in the real world) - rather, it strips us of the opportunity to learn how to engage with and respond to challenging views in an effective way.

Of course, the term "misinformation" is extremely problematic in itself and is wide open to abuse from oppressive and totalitarian individuals and bodies, who are able to slap this seemingly authoritative term on any views they don't like, or that threatens their interests. For instance, pharmaceutical companies, who have made billions in sales from Covid vaccines, are highly incentivised to label views that draw attention to safety issues with these products, as "misinformation". This is a deeply dishonest approach, thoroughly lacking in transparency and integrity, as the correct and principled way to engage with an opposing view is to use evidence and reason to demonstrate why an opponent is wrong, not to ruthlessly silence them.

I am a vigorous advocate of free speech, including and especially for views I find offensive and wrong. I never use the term "misinformation" in an attempt to discredit or malign others, even if their views are demonstrably factually wrong. People have the moral right to have views that are wrong, and I hope they share these views publicly, as it is only then these views can be robustly countered with evidence, of the type that might change hearts and minds. By instead censoring and silencing individuals, as the Twitter platform so often does, all that happens is that fringe and alternative views are driven underground, where there is less opportunity for them to be countered and exposed as wrong (if, indeed, they are wrong). Calling ideological opponents names ("conspiracy theorist", "far-right extremist", "misinformation" etc.) and then permanently silencing them, does nothing to improve the quality of information available, and in fact does exactly the opposite.

There are seven billion people on this planet, and therefore just as many different views, perspectives, and opinions. There does not exist on this earthly plain one definitive authority who gets to declare whether all of these peoples' views are "misinformation" or not. There may be certain consensus opinions on certain issues, but consensus is not objective and ineffable fact - and even if 99.99% of people on Earth agree on something, it is of the most fundamental and critical moral importance, in a free and democratic society, that we preserve the right of that 0.01% to disagree - and to publicly air their disagreements.

There is only one absolute authority who has the right to determine ultimate and incontrovertible truth, and that authority is God. You are not God, Parag, although I can understand that the almighty social power being CEO of Twitter has bestowed upon you, might have resulted in the development of the eponymous "... Complex".

Twitter already has plenty of controls in place so that people can avoid seeing information they find unacceptable. Users can be unfollowed, blocked, muted, replies and notifications can be filtered, and so on. Those users who followed me on Twitter, and who engaged with my posts, did so because they did not find my viewpoints unacceptable, but rather, were interested in engaging with my views - whether or not they agreed - because this is how civil society operates: sponsoring free and open dialogue between people over a range of different subjects and issues that affect us all, and that we all experience differently. Everybody has the right to be heard, no matter how vigorously others might disagree with them. And if those who vigorously disagree are ultra-wealthy CEOs of incredibly powerful social media companies, or billionaire owners of pharmaceutical companies, I think any intelligent person would agree, it's especially important their opponents are heard then.

Thank you for your time, and I hope you will reconsider both your decision to permanently suspend my account, and the similar silencing so often enforced on others with whom you disagree. Because always remember, Parag: tearing out your enemy's tongue does not prove him a liar. It just proves you fear what he has to say.

Yours truly,

@miri_af

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