By Nebojsa Malic, senior writer at RT
Right after running a story criticizing the French coverage of ‘Russiagate,’ a progressive Euroskeptic outlet got labeled by Twitter as Russian state-affiliated media. A case of mistaken identity, or content-based censorship?
Ruptures is a French journal that describes itself as progressive and “radically Eurocritical.” It has been around for almost 20 years, changing its name from Bastille-République-Nations to Ruptures in 2015.
Less than an hour after publishing a story about the French media coverage of ‘Russiagate’ – the entirely unsubstantiated claim about US President Donald Trump colluding with Moscow during the 2016 elections – last week, Ruptures found itself labeled “Russian state-affiliated media” by Twitter.
La rédaction de @Ruptures_fr, mensuel indépendant financé par ses abonnés, devient aujourd’hui un “Média affilié à un Etat, Russie” ?🧐🤔Allo @TwitterFrance ?🙏🙏Merci à tous d’amplifier cette publication afin de connaître le pourquoi du comment de cet étiquetage soudain pic.twitter.com/mol9AieMKB
— Ruptures (@Ruptures_fr) September 7, 2020
Ruptures immediately reached out to Twitter France and protested that this label was a calumny of their “independent, subscriber-funded monthly,” journalist Lauren Daure told RT in an email.
“No explanations so far from Twitter despite our requests,” Daure added.
Twitter instituted the labeling program on August 6, but only for select outlets – those operated by the US, UK, French or German governments, for example, somehow escaped the designation. Twitter also said that accounts thus designated will not be promoted through its recommendation systems, such as “home timeline, notifications, and search.”
In practice, this severely limits the visibility of the designated accounts, while the label itself serves to “intimidate” the readers – according to none other than the head of Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty. Admittedly, she was commenting on a proposed Russian rule that would simply label her outlet – part of the US government’s global broadcasting system – as a foreign agent, without any restrictions on visibility.
That’s the jam Ruptures finds itself in, and no one – at Twitter or elsewhere – has offered any reason as to why. The possibilities range from ridiculous to sinister. In what could be a case of mistaken identity, perhaps someone at Twitter France made a category error and conflated Ruptures with Ruptly, the video news agency that’s part of the RT family.
While that is bad enough, the other option is infinitely worse: that someone at Twitter France decided Ruptures amounted to “Russian state-affiliated media” based on the content of their article about ‘Russiagate.’ Then there is the fact that Ruptures’ editor-in-chief Pierre Levy once had an op-ed published on RT Russian – way back in October 2017! – about sanctions as information warfare.
Whatever the reason, the label effectively amounts to “soft” censorship of Ruptures. It also goes far beyond what US laws envisioned as acting “in good faith” when they made platforms like Twitter immune from legal liability (in the controversial Section 230). At the very least, Twitter owes Ruptures an explanation. A week after they were branded, they’re still waiting.
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