WINDSOR TERRACE — Still waiting, but with no expectations.
Gerard Kassar, chairman of the Conservative Party of New York State, said Twitter has yet to say what it found so objectionable when it suspended the political organization’s account three times this year.
The earlier shutdowns happened Feb. 7-8 and April 1-10. The most recent one lasted two months from July 9 through Sept. 10.
The organization was off Twitter all of August when Democrats and Republicans held their national conventions. Kassar said his party’s inability to tweet about state and national politics during an important part of the election cycle made him “extraordinarily annoyed.”
“Look, we’re not one of those organizations out there saying let’s blow up the world,” Kassar told The Tablet. “If you find something distasteful in what we put out, I’d be surprised. But to this day, we don’t know what the problem was.
“I will probably advocate to the Legislature, as chair of this party, that there is a consumer-oriented bill to require Twitter, whenever it suspends an account, to provide information about why you specifically were suspended,” Kassar added.
Kassar said such a law would allow Twitter’s customers to fix any actual errors or at least argue why a post should be allowed on the social media platform.
He noted that other conservative people or organizations experienced similar shutdowns, but this one prompted commentary from political columnist William O’Reilly, nephew of the late conservative author William F. Buckley Jr.
Two Republican leaders read O’Reilly’s column, became concerned, and decided to complain. New York State Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt and State Assembly Republican Leader Will Barclay sent their letter to Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey in San Francisco.
Ortt and Barclay wrote that federal appeals courts “have recently held that the type of social media platform your company offers has become the 21st Century equivalent of a public forum, where free speech is constitutionally protected.”
The letter also stated, “we find your actions in blocking the Twitter access to the New York State Conservative Party to be deeply troubling. Our Conference, and more importantly, the overwhelming number of the constituents we represent, does not believe in silencing constitutionally protected, political free speech, even when we disagree with its content or political perspective. This is the hallmark of our nation, its liberty, and its freedom.”
Ortt and Barclay concluded that they “respectfully request that your company immediately cease and desist from its unlawful practice of violating the constitutionally protected free speech rights of the New York State.”
The two Republicans signed the letter on Sept. 10. The party’s account was restored soon after.
No problems have since been detected, Kassar said, and the party’s other social media accounts on Facebook and Instagram have had no similar problems.
Kassar noted Twitter sent an email with an apology for inconveniencing the party, but never gave a specific example of objectionable content the organization might have tweeted or retweeted.
“We’re writing to let you know that we’ve unsuspended your account,” said the email. “We’re sorry for the inconvenience and hope to see you back on Twitter soon. A little background: we have systems that find and remove multiple automated spam accounts in bulk, and yours was flagged as spam by mistake.”
A Twitter spokesperson told Currents News, “We took enforcement action on the account referenced in error.”
“That’s all well and good,” Kassar said, “but if we violated something even minor, we’d never be able to correct it. We were completely bewildered. It’s like we were caught in a spider web and had no way to extract ourselves because they ignored our earlier requests for information.”
“We do believe Twitter has a prejudice against certain conservative groups,” he added. “We recognize it is a private company, but they need to understand companies have responsibilities to the consumers who use their tool.
“If they can control what their customers say, they have a very real advantage over public thought.”