An Open Letter To Twitter Regarding The Safe Space It’s Created for Nazis

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Text of email sent to press@Twitter.com by Barrett Brown, on October 25, 2019.

Sirs-

This is Barrett Brown. I’m a longtime journalist and the recipient of the National Magazine Award for commentary, the New York Press Club award for humor, the Folio award for best local coverage, and other such awards in recognition of my journalism and opinion writing. I’m also the author of several books, including memoirs that will be released from Farrar, Straus, and Giroux in April of next year. And I now hold the record in permanent suspensions from Twitter, as you can see from the articles linked below. In fact, I held it two permanent suspensions ago.

I’m cc’ing several other journalists and figures who have watched this sort of thing happen to myself and others, and who have had to take time out of their own work to get my account restored on prior occasions. This includes Birgitta Jonsdottir, the former Icelandic member of parliament and head of the International Modern Media Institute where I’m a board member, and who is also a board member of my own non-profit; Luke O’Brien, the Huffington Post journalist and one of many in the press who’ve been victimized by users in good standing in the course of events documented below, some of which are ongoing at this very moment; social media researcher Erin Gallagher, who has tracked some of the neo-Nazi networks and other groupings whose members have had great success using Twitter’s reporting system to silence their critics; journalist Leah McElrath, who was harassed by one such de facto Twitter volunteer for merely notifying others of one of my previous bans, as noted in one of the articles linked below; Michael Hayden of the Southern Poverty Law Center, who has written about one of the white supremacist media figures who helped promote the ongoing journalist intimidation campaign alluded to below, and which has been participated in by at least one of the individuals who has successfully reported me in the past; David Gilmour, who wrote the two articles below on my previous bans; Ken Silverstein, longtime columnist for Harper’s and founder of Washington Babylon; Joshua Frank, my editor at Counterpunch who will be unable to expect me to help promote my latest article when it appears today because of the issues described below; and Dr. Emma Briant, who recently consulted with Twitter’s leadership on issues overlapping this one, along with British parliament; as well as other board members of Pursuance, which has suffered on account of the time and energy we’ve had to put in to reversing these decisions, as has the #29Leaks project I’ve been helping to organize for use by press outlets around the world; among these board members are documentary filmmaker and actor Alex Winter; former Courage Foundation director Naomi Colvin; Robert Tynes of Bard College; Mano Singham, retired from Case Western; and Dr. Gary Branfman, reconstructive surgeon and contributor to The Forward, best known for giving the key to Victoria Texas’ Jewish temple to the local mosque after it was burned down by the sort of people I keep getting banned for insulting, and whose Jewish household I’ll be marrying into at some point in the next year.

I despise having to beg colleagues to focus on these ongoing efforts to silence me, and to ask the public to spend their news reading time learning about each new episode in this bizarre struggle for access to the public forums I use to reveal evidence in murder cases, correct falsehoods by executives, and oversee research projects that have been praised in documentary films and emulated elsewhere. It diminishes my ability to focus attention on other things that need attention; it gradually irritates others in the press who come to associate my emails with perpetual requests for favors; it marginalizes me and those for whom I advocate. I’m pursuing this particular method in hopes that this may be resolved and I won’t have to do it any more in the future.

Each of those permanent bans was a result of mass reporting by various factions opposed to my journalism and activism work, including a neo-Nazi based in Brooklyn who’s also harassed other journalists from his account, a group of admitted FBI informants, and several admirers of Palantir, a firm whose plots to commit crimes against journalists I was involved in exposing in 2011. On each of those occasions, those responsible made it known publicly that they were reporting me, such that there was no question of who was responsible and what sort of people they were. Also on each of those occasions, other journalists and press advocates protested the move, leading Twitter to rescind the suspensions and note that they were made in error after being contacted by reporters. Many of my colleagues also asked that I be given a verified account so that my commentary and journalism, which has been the subject of an extraordinary amount of retaliation over the last decade, would not lead to further bad-faith bans as a result of mass reporting, and thus not require dozens of journalists to have to spend their time seeking to correct this. Worst of all, my registered non-profit Pursuance Project (@PursuanceProj) was also suspended on two of these occasions, often for days, and would have likely never been restored had I not had the ability to drum up the necessary press attention.

On the fourth and most recent occasion, it seems to have taken only a single report from a demented user to prompt the suspension — even as the same user vowed to try to get me falsely imprisoned via an alleged connection to the Texas authorities:

Contrary to the notification I received from Twitter, this was not, of course, any sort of “bullying” on my part. Assange is in Belmarsh prison and is thus immune from the sort of online harassment that those of us on the outside are routinely subjected to. I was making a moral argument regarding a hypothetical scenario, regarding a man whose legal defense I still assist with despite our very considerable differences. This was explained in replies to the tweet in question, which was also retweeted and liked and responded to by other journalists who understood what it was and what it was not.

This time, your office seems not to have responded to press inquiries about whether this, too, was an error, and thus I’ve lost the 16,000 followers — many of them other journalists or NGO staffers — that I’d managed to build back up since late 2016, when I got out of prison on charges that had been denounced by media outlets across the world as retaliation for the things I’d worked to expose — only to promptly learn from Kevin Gallagher, my defense fund head, that per his inquiry with Twitter’s offices, I would not be getting my previous account back, which had 14,000 followers, and which was verified to be mine via the DOJ itself, which had of course subpoenaed that account along with everything else via secret grand jury search warrants shortly after my role in maintaining press focus on Palantir’s Team Themis scandal became clear to those concerned. Palantir also figures into at least one of these bans that Twitter would ultimately deem to be an error.

Meanwhile, there is the matter of the harassment, threats, and bad faith reporting by those users that have meanwhile thrived on Twitter, such as those who have promoted the #DayOfTheBrick campaign to intimidate, threaten, and dox the other journalists who have had to suffer along with their families on account of it. This has been written about extensively; it’s not any sort of secret or little-known alt-right meme. I have cc’d one of those who’ve been victimized by it, Luke O’Brien of Huffington Post. I have also posted a screenshot from a few hours ago, showing just a few of the Nazi-affiliated users who have found Twitter to be far more accommodating than those of us who respond to their outright criminal activities with insults, and sometimes even less.

For instance, my first two-week suspension was for using cuss words in response to a user who was spreading anti-Jewish falsehoods and nonsense about George Soros that he claimed to be backed by video evidence THE DAY AFTER THE MASSACRE AT A JEWISH TEMPLE THAT KILLED 12 PEOPLE… and just a few weeks after another Twitter user who’d been threatening press from his Twitter account while avoiding any bans despite pleas from one of the local reporters he targeted eventually sent pipe bombs to Soros himself along with other targets. You can probably guess which one of us was punished for “hateful conduct”.

Here’s a screenshot from a few hours ago. Search “#DayOfTheBrick” and you’ll find plenty more.

Just a sampling of what Twitter allows.

I’m asking that my account, @BarrettBrown_, be restored immediately — today, the 25th of October, as you’ve had over a month to deal with this since Gilmour first wrote to you asking for comment- and that I be given the verified status that others in the press have called for me to receive. I’m also asking that @PursuanceProj, which has been suspended twice without explanation, also receive this status, given how vulnerable it’s proven to people who have correctly decided there are no repercussions for making false reports about non-profits and then bragging about what they’ve done in full view of journalists (see below). Finally, I’m asking that a representative from Twitter be made available on an ongoing basis for press to contact directly about the violent threats, doxing, and other ongoing criminal activities. And just as a favor, I’d like to ask that Twitter refrain from lying to the public about having supposedly reached out to me after a previous ban was reversed, as one of your representatives claimed to the press on a recent occasion.

I look forward to hearing from you, directly and promptly.

That was the email I wrote today to Twitter. I shouldn’t have had to write it. No one should ever have to write anything even close to it. But that is where we are, and where we’re going will be worse.

Note: Barrett’s letter originally ran at CounterPunch.

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Barrett Brown
Barrett Brown is a journalist, activist, and founder of the crowd-sourced research outfit Project PM, which was listed in a search warrant executed by the FBI in 2012 along with HBGary and Endgame Systems, two firms linked to the U.S. intelligence community that the group had investigated along with Palantir, Booz Allen Hamilton, and others. After finishing a four-year stint in federal prison over controversial charges involving the “global analysis” firm Stratfor, which was hacked with the involvement of the FBI, Brown created Pursuance, a non-profit intent on building a universal software framework for mass civic collaboration while encouraging the development of crowd-sourcing. In 2015, Brown won the National Magazine Award in the category of columns and commentary for his monthly prison column for The Intercept, “The Barrett Brown Review of Arts and Letters and Prison”, along with other journalism awards. His third book, “My Glorious Defeats”, is forthcoming from Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.