Monday, January 25, 2021

Seven Prominent Twitter Accounts Still Active After Promoting Violence and Disinformation

Twitter permanently banned President Donald Trump on Friday, dramatically ushering in a new era of Big Tech speech control.

Several other prominent individuals and organizations who have recently spread disinformation and explicitly called for violence – up to and including genocide – remain free to use Twitter, including hostile foreign powers that do not allow their own citizens to use the platform.

China’s Communist Party Propaganda Chiefs

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has free access to Twitter through numerous government agencies and individuals, even though Twitter is banned and blocked in China. The CCP used Twitter to spread disinformation about the Wuhan coronavirus that cost millions of lives around the world and ruined countless more lives by severely damaging the economies of other nations.

A prominent example is Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian. Zhao freely used Twitter to spread conspiracy theories that the Chinese coronavirus was a biological weapon created by the U.S. military. In late November 2020, he posted a doctored propaganda photo that depicted an Australian soldier slitting the throat of a child in Afghanistan.

Twitter did not so much as “fact-check” the false image, not even after the Australian government formally complained about it. Zhao’s slanderous Tweet and false photo remain online to this day, with over 74,000 “likes,” blissfully free of Twitter content warnings or fact checks.

Shocked by murder of Afghan civilians & prisoners by Australian soldiers. We strongly condemn such acts, &call for holding them accountable. pic.twitter.com/GYOaucoL5D

— Lijian Zhao 赵立坚 (@zlj517) November 30, 2020

Zhao is hardly the only representative of the oppressive Chinese government who can violate Twitter’s standards with impunity. Chen Weihua, European bureau chief of the state-run China Daily, used the platform to call U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) a “bitch” in December 2020. Chen’s Tweet remains online without content warnings of any kind and has over 81,000 “likes.”

Bitch

— Chen Weihua (陈卫华) (@chenweihua) December 3, 2020

Brookings TechStream noted in October that not only is China paying no penalty for relentlessly using Twitter to spread disinformation, but the Twitter accounts of China’s “wolf warrior” diplomats are flourishing, with rapidly growing legions of followers. Zhao Lijian, for example, has enjoyed a 42-percent increase in followers since March 2020.

China’s booming Twitter accounts are amplifying other hostile powers noted for spreading disinformation, oppressing their populations, and encouraging violence, such as Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro. China’s network of completely uncensored, un-fact-checked, and unrestricted Twitter accounts also give massive signal boosts to the CCP’s own lies and slanders. As Brookings TechStream noted, Zhao Lijian’s conspiracy theories about America creating the coronavirus were blasted out by Twitter accounts belonging to Chinese diplomats, agencies, and media organizations, in English and numerous other languages.

An extremely rare example of Twitter taking action against the CCP occurred on Friday, under intense worldwide pressure. The Chinese Embassy to the United States enthusiastically promoted a China Daily article justifying the forced sterilization of Uyghur Muslims as a triumph of both population control and feminism, using a Tweet worded as follows:

Study shows that in the process of eradicating extremism, the minds of Uygur women in Xinjiang were emancipated and gender equality and reproductive health were promoted, making them no longer baby-making machines. They are more confident and independent.

After an outcry from governments, human rights organizations, and individual users around the world, Twitter deleted the above post, explaining that it “violated the Twitter Rules.” The Chinese Embassy’s Twitter account was not suspended, and it continues to post propaganda about the oppression of the Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities.

Ayatollah Khamenei and Iran’s Many Media Arms

Another hostile foreign power that freely uses Twitter to dispense disinformation and calls for violence is Iran. As with China, Twitter is blocked for ordinary Iranians but freely used by officials of the oppressive regime.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in particular, constantly uses his Twitter account to support terrorism and call for violence against Jews. He is not subtle about any of this – he hashtags exactly which groups he thinks should be killing more Jews and offers to send them weapons.

The West Bank must be armed, just as Gaza. The only thing that can reduce the Palestinians’ hardships is the hand of power. Otherwise, compromise won’t reduce a bit of the cruelty of this usurping, evil, wolf-like entity.#FlyTheFlag

— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) May 18, 2020

#Hamas & #IslamicJihad in Palestine, #Hezbollah in Lebanon have been a proof for everyone.The world will not forget the day Zionist army, pounded by Hezbollah, retreated from Lebanon & begged for a truce after heavy casualties. This is what full hands & a position of power means.

— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) May 22, 2020

When Khamenei is not directly encouraging violence against Jews and other adversaries of Iran, he uses his account to dehumanize them, an explicit violation of Twitter terms of service for which he is never punished. During the pandemic, for example, he hoped “the long-lasting virus of Zionism will be uprooted” by the Chinese coronavirus. Twitter refuses to take action against Khamenei for posts that deny the Holocaust, including a tweet he wrote in October.

The next question to ask is: why is it a crime to raise doubts about the Holocaust? Why should anyone who writes about such doubts be imprisoned while insulting the Prophet (pbuh) is allowed?

— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) October 28, 2020

In June 2020, after Khamenei used Twitter to describe Israelis as animals and Israel as a “cancerous tumor” that must be “removed and eradicated” – an explicit call for genocide – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the ayatollah’s “disgusting and hateful anti-Semitic remarks” and said they have “no place on Twitter or any other social media platform.” Khamenei’s Tweets remain online, devoid of content warnings, with thousands of “likes.”

The West Bank must be armed, just as Gaza. The only thing that can reduce the Palestinians’ hardships is the hand of power. Otherwise, compromise won’t reduce a bit of the cruelty of this usurping, evil, wolf-like entity.#FlyTheFlag

— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) May 18, 2020

Twitter also took no action against Khamenei after he used Twitter to threaten military and terrorist attacks against the United States, in addition to Israel.

The Islamic Republic of Iran will never forget the martyrdom of Hajj Qasem Soleimani and will definitely strike a reciprocal blow to the US.

— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) July 21, 2020

On Friday, just as Twitter was finally roused to do something about a particularly appalling Chinese Communist Party tweet, the platform finally decided to delete a post from Ayatollah Khamenei. The post in question accused the U.S., U.K., and France of deliberately trying to infect other nations with the coronavirus using their vaccines:

Importing vaccines made in the U.S. or the U.K. is prohibited. They’re completely untrustworthy. It’s not unlikely they would want to contaminate other nations. Given our experience with France’s HIV-tainted blood supplies, French vaccines aren’t trustworthy either.

After a blizzard of complaints from around the world, Twitter deleted this tweet from Khamenei’s English and Arabic accounts, but not from his Persian-language account. Khamenei is still free to use Twitter in all three languages, as none of his accounts were suspended. In testimony before Congress in October 2020, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey dismissed Khamenei’s constant violations of Twitter’s terms of service as mere “saber-rattling” that included no threat of “immediate harm.”

Khamenei is hardly the only Iranian official or entity to use Twitter for spreading disinformation and inciting violence. The Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a designated terrorist organization, uses Twitter to hunt down political dissidents after protests. Many of the targets have been jailed or killed.

A group of Republican lawmakers urged Twitter to ban Khamenei and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, a highly prolific tweeter, in February 2020. The Republicans argued that Khamenei and Zarif routinely use the platform to spread disinformation and argued that providing services to them was a violation of U.S. sanctions. Zarif’s Twitter account remains active.

Kremlin Leaders and Russian ‘Bots’

Russia aggressively uses Twitter for propaganda, disinformation, and political repression. Action is rarely taken against major Russian state accounts, not even after the hysteria over Russia supposedly using the Internet to “hack” the 2016 U.S. presidential election, although “networks” of lesser spam and “troll” accounts have been identified and dismantled.

“In the last few years, Russia has used official government Twitter accounts to undermine the West and hit back against criticism, often with tantalizing and meme-filled rhetoric. The Twitter accounts of Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and its Embassy in the UK, both of which tweet in English, have been particularly active,” Business Insidernoted in 2018.

The Rand Corporation published a study of Russian social media influence in 2018 that argued the troll and bot networks which are occasionally purged by Western social media companies are only a small part of how the Kremlin uses Twitter and other platforms to destabilize neighboring countries and wage “information warfare” against the West. The top or “white” level of the Russian information warfare system uses the social media accounts of top officials, ministries, and major state media outlets precisely because the Kremlin knows they are unlikely to be blocked or “fact-checked.”

Although Twitter indulges Russian officials and agencies, Russia frequently threatens to censor or ban Twitter unless it complies with state censorship demands. Russian lawmakers in November introduced legislation to ban foreign social media platforms if they take any action against Russian state media, including obvious propaganda accounts.

Hi there, @statedeptspox. Calm down. Your propaganda machine is out of control – you’re spamming all of us

— MFA Russia 🇷🇺 (@mfa_russia) March 7, 2018

#Zakharova: The Normandy landings were not a game-changer for the outcome of WWII and the Great Patriotic War. The outcome was determined by the Red Army’s victories – mainly, in Stalingrad and Kursk. For three years, the UK and then the US dragged out opening the second front pic.twitter.com/LhzkEzNCQN

— MFA Russia 🇷🇺 (@mfa_russia) June 5, 2019

Colin Kaepernick: ‘We Have the Right to Fight Back!’

The football player famous for disrespecting the national anthem unambiguously defended and encouraged violence during the Black Lives Matter riots, which were far larger, longer, more destructive, and deadlier than the riot on Capitol Hill. “When civility leads to death, revolting is the only logical reaction,” he wrote.

When civility leads to death, revolting is the only logical reaction.

The cries for peace will rain down, and when they do, they will land on deaf ears, because your violence has brought this resistance.

We have the right to fight back!

Rest in Power George Floyd

— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) May 28, 2020

Kaepernick’s tweet is still live, with no disclaimers or warning messages, and has over 100,000 “likes.” His Twitter account is fully active; his pinned tweet calls for abolishing the police, a position that seems to have gone out of fashion on the Left over the past few days. Far from censuring him, Twitter gave him grant money for his “know your rights camp” only a few days after he endorsed rioting.

Nation of Islam Radical Louis Farrakhan

The notoriously anti-Semitic head of the Nation of Islam has no problem using Twitter today after years of spewing hateful rhetoric, bizarre falsehoods, outrageous slander, and incitements to violence.

Farrakhan’s account was briefly suspended in January 2020, but Twitter said it was an accident and quickly reinstated him. In July 2019, after nine months of deliberation, Twitter decided to make Farrakhan delete a tweet in which he referred to Jews as “termites,” but refused to suspend him, even after he was suspended from Facebook.

The most enduring penalty leveled against Farrakhan by Twitter was removing his “blue check” verification status in 2018 after he ranted about “the Satanic Jew and the Synagogue of Satan.” Twitter frequently insists the blue check is merely a verification of identity, not a symbol of status or approval, although its terms of service state that it can remove the blue check for hate speech, harassment, incitement to violence, and similar transgressions.

Antifa: The proven violent domestic terrorist organization Antifa has little trouble using Twitter to organize, as journalist Andy Ngo, who was attacked and beaten by Antifa thugs, pointed out on Friday:

Twitter still allows these Portland antifa groups to organize, promote and/or incite violence on the platform: pic.twitter.com/D0R7ib1mx2

— Andy Ngô (@MrAndyNgo) January 9, 2021

There was a great deal of fanfare in June 2020 when Twitter banned a fake Antifa account linked to a white nationalist group, but the actual Antifa organization apparently has little to fear from Twitter censors.

Antifa really didcommit a bona fide act of violent insurrection – the notorious CHAZ/CHOP “protest zone” in Seattle, which endured for weeks on end, was patrolled by armed militants, and was the scene of deadly violence – but the media was more interested in glorifying it as a playful lark and obscuring what actually happened there than calling for social media controls to prevent it from happening again. Twitter seemed to have little objection to its platform being used to coordinate activities within the secessionist “autonomous zone.”

The process for deciding East Precinct conversion must include those involved in CHAZ, black community organizations, restorative justice, faith, anti-racist, renter orgns, land trusts, groups, labor unions that have a proven record of fighting racism.https://t.co/QaQsGHo6fs

— Kshama Sawant (@cmkshama) June 12, 2020

Due to COVID-19 we respectfully decline the @SeattlePD s request for their precinct back. The People will move forward with their plans to convert the space into a Mutual Aid HQ for COVID. #SeattleAutonomousZone#chaz#Protestseattle#COVID__19pic.twitter.com/CJp23RKVrM

— Bus Token. (@pnwtransitdaddy) June 11, 2020

Far-Left Agitator Linda Sarsour

Violent and hateful rhetoric is indulged for influential left-wingers like Linda Sarsour, whose Twitter feed was ugly enough to make even the New York Timesuncomfortable in 2017:

There are comments on her Twitter feed of the anti-Zionist sort: “Nothing is creepier than Zionism,” she wrote in 2012. And, oddly, given her status as a major feminist organizer, there are more than a few that seem to make common cause with anti-feminists, like this from 2015: “You’ll know when you’re living under Shariah law if suddenly all your loans and credit cards become interest-free. Sound nice, doesn’t it?” She has dismissed the anti-Islamist feminist Ayaan Hirsi Ali in the most crude and cruel terms, insisting she is “not a real woman” and confessing that she wishes she could take away Ms. Ali’s vagina — this about a woman who suffered genital mutilation as a girl in Somalia.

Ms. Sarsour and her defenders have dismissed all of this as a smear campaign coordinated by the far right and motivated by Islamophobia. Plus, they’ve argued, many of these tweets were written five years ago! Ancient history.

But just last month, Ms. Sarsour proved that her past is prologue. On July 16, the official Twitter feed of the Women’s March offered warm wishes to Assata Shakur. “Happy birthday to the revolutionary #AssataShakur!” read the tweet, which featured a “#SignOfResistance, in Assata’s honor” — a pink and purple Pop Art-style portrait of Ms. Shakur, better known as Joanne Chesimard, a convicted killer who is on the F.B.I.’s list of most wanted terrorists.

The tweet about Ayaan Hirsi Ali to which the New York Times referred also included a desire for Lebanese-American author and activist Brigitte Gabriel to be deprived of her vagina as well, asserted “they don’t deserve to be women,” and threatened to give both of them an “a$$-whippin.’”

Linda Sarsour wants to take @Ayaan Hirsi Ali's (a victim of female genital mutilation) vagina away.

Shame on you @benandjerrys !!! pic.twitter.com/ksY8eBWD3t

— Aisha Murtad (@UmmAlMumineen) November 2, 2018

The tweet was later deleted, but Sarsour’s Twitter account is fully active, and verified, today. The mainstream media has largely forgotten about the brief rash of uneasy feelings it experienced over Sarsour’s rhetoric a few years ago, and she had no trouble serving as a campaign surrogate for Sen. Bernie Sanders during the 2020 Democratic primary.

John Hayward

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