Recall that Twitter had censored a tweet by Customs and Border Patrol’s Mark Morgan, Senior Official Performing the Duties of Commissioner (i.e., Acting Commissioner), both deleting his tweet and suspending his—CBP official—Twitter account.
Here is the offending tweet, as quoted in a letter to Jack Dorsey, Twitter CEO, by Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolfe:
CBP & US Army Corps of Engineers continue to build new wall every day. Every mile helps us stop gang members, murderers, sexual predators, and drugs from entering our country. It’s a fact, walls work.
Here is Dorsey’s response, through his censors:
You may not promote violence against, threaten, or harass other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease.
The disconnect between Dorsey’s response and Morgan’s tweet is so obvious and blatant that Dorsey can only be committing rank censorship and his response considered deliberately dishonest.
Dorsey ultimately backed down under public pressure and restored Morgan’s access to his account. Notwithstanding, Wolfe wrote his letter to Dorsey, and he didn’t pull many punches. Here is that letter; note, too, the footnote:
October 30, 2020
Mr. Jack Dorsey
Chief Executive Officer
1555 Market Street, Suite 900
San Francisco, CA 94103
Dear Mr. Dorsey:
I write to you about Twitter’s recent censorship of Mark Morgan, the Senior Official Performing the Duties of Commissioner of US Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Not only was Twitter’s act of censorship unjustified—the tweet is supported by data—it is disturbing. As the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and other Federal agencies continue to rely on Twitter to share important information with the US public, your censorship poses a threat to our security.
Hours after you concluded testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on October 28, 2020, Twitter suspended Mr. Morgan for tweeting: “CBP & US Army Corps of Engineers continue to build new wall every day. Every mile helps us stop gang members, murderers, sexual predators, and drugs from entering our country. It’s a fact, walls work.” Twitter’s moderators, apparently triggered by the tweet, emailed Mr. Morgan to say, “You may not promote violence against, threaten, or harass other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease.” The Acting Commissioner’s tweet did none of these things. Read it. Watch the video.
The fact that the tweet was removed and the account locked is startling. It is hard to understand how anyone believed Mr. Morgan’s tweet promoted violence, threats or harassment. Especially considering that the facts about the border wall system support the tweet.
Whether you know it or not, CBP guards the front line of the American homeland. CBP repels and arrests thousands of violent criminal gang members each year. CBP rescues young girls who are forced into cross-border sex trafficking. CBP intercepts dangerous drugs and contraband, including enough of the opioid fentanyl to kill every man, woman, and child in the United States several times over. CBP fulfills the United States’ most obvious and essential law enforcement and national security responsibility to the people of our country. Your company may choose to be ignorant of these facts, but it is no less censorship when you choose to suppress them.
There was no reason to remove Mr. Morgan’s tweet from your platform, other than ideological disagreement with the speaker. Such censorship is disturbing. Twitter’s conduct censoring US government officials also endangers the national security. It is dangerous and damaging when any publisher arbitrarily and unfoundedly decides, as it did here, that the facts and policies of a particular Presidential Administration constitute “violence”—in order to censor them. And in the case of Twitter, this can cut off an essential mode of communication between US Government officials and the public. In doing so, Twitter is sabotaging public discourse regarding important national and homeland security issues.
Further, it is clear that Twitter’s gross censorship was intentional, not accidental. Twitter notified CBP that it had censored Mr. Morgan’s message and locked his account. In response, CBP communicated with Twitter’s office of government affairs, and also appealed Twitter’s censorship decision. But Twitter denied the appeal. And Twitter’s office of government affairs ignored CBP’s communications. Only after CBP reached out to Twitter’s office of government affairs a second time and went public with this censorship, then finally Twitter admitted its bad judgment and unlocked the account.1
I call on you to commit to never again censoring content on your platform and obstructing Americans’ unalienable right to communicate with each other and with their government and its officials, including the thousands of law enforcement officers at the DHS who work vigilantly and diligently to protect your safety every day.
Chad F. Wolf
[Footnote] 1: Adding insult to injury—and insult to Americans’ intelligence—Twitter then spread disinformation by misrepresenting Twitter’s intentional censorship. Specifically, “[a] Twitter spokesperson confirmed that Morgan had been locked out of his account but said ‘the decision was reversed following an appeal by the account owner and further evaluation from our team.'” Caitlin Oprysko, Trump’s Border Chief Slams Twitter for Locking His Account After Border Wall Tweet, POLITICO (Oct. 29, 2020, 03:05 PM), https://www.politico.com/news/2020/10/29/mark-morgan-twitter-border-wall-tweet-433617. It makes the false impression that Twitter’s appeal process remedied a mistake, but in fact Twitter’s appeal process failed. Twitter actually denied CBP’s appeal. Twitter only reversed itself after controversy and embarrassment escalated.
This sort of thing, by Sundar Pinchai and John Hennessey at Alphabet and Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook as well as by Dorsey, will continue, though—this response regarding Morgan’s tweet will simply be a one-off used by those three to claim purity—unless and until these social media platforms are brought under control and their censorship ended. That will take pressure from us citizens on them and on the folks we elect to represent us and our positions in government to rein them in.
The letter also can be read here.