(Source: FinalCall.com) Twitter, one of the world’s largest social media companies, has frozen the official account of Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan under a new policy guideline. The decision came 60 days after Facebook and its Instagram platforms imposed a lifetime ban on the Minister’s accounts, leading to a backlash from those who respect and follow his work and those concerned about restrictions of free speech.
The move came amid mounting pressure on social media companies to regulate and police content and constant attacks on Min. Farrakhan from the Anti-Defamation League and other Jewish and White groups demanding he be removed from all social media platforms and repudiated in public life.
“This is definitely about a blatant and personal attack against the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan,” said Jesse Muhammad, social media manager for Minister Farrakhan.
Groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center, which faces its own accusations of racism, and the Anti-Defamation League, which has been accused of being anti-Black, are among those who have led the anti-Farrakhan effort. “Obviously they continue to put pressure upon these executives in Silicon Valley to continue to remove the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan,” Mr. Muhammad said.
Twitter notified Mr. Muhammad in an email about the decision citing a post on Minister Farrakhan’s account from October 2018 that attracted nearly four million views.
“We received two notifications from Twitter, Inc., that the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan’s Twitter account will be locked up based upon a policy that they just added,” Jesse Muhammad told The Final Call. The notice, effective immediately, was emailed July 9, the same day Twitter announced new rules that will remove past tweets with language it deems offensive toward religious groups. The Minister’s account is still up on the platform but cannot be updated.
Mr. Muhammad said the policy appears to be “recrafted to target the Minister” as part of an ongoing and wider anti-Farrakhan media campaign.
Twitter Safety, the company’s oversight department that receives complaints about offensive content, said the policy is an expansion of Twitter’s “hateful conduct” policy to include a clause against posting “dehumanizing language” toward religious groups. It said the clause will apply to other groups over time.
Last year Twitter collected 8,000 user responses to a survey it conducted asking how it can modify its hateful conduct policy to include dehumanizing language. Twitter says the policy applies to content that dehumanizes others based on their membership in an identifiable group, even when the material does not include a direct target.
“What they decided to do was to troll back to the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan’s tweet that posted October 16, 2018 with the headline, ‘I’m not an anti-Semite; I’m anti-termite,’ ” Jesse Muhammad explained. Although there were relentless demands from groups like the Anti-Defamation League and others to remove the post, Twitter representatives at the time stated it didn’t violate their terms of service. Others see the change as an attempt to rob both Minister Farrakhan and the masses of people of the exercise of free speech guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
Under the new policy, Twitter is now saying if Minister Farrakhan deletes the post, they will unfreeze his account, which Mr. Muhammad says is not an option. He said to delete the post will send a signal that detractors against the Minister were correct in their “lie” that the tweet was hate speech and anti-Semitic.
An appeal of the decision was submitted to Twitter by Minister Farrakhan’s Social Media team.
In early May 2019, Facebook and Instagram stripped accounts from Minister Farrakhan and several other public figures. In Minister Farrakhan’s case, there is no record of violence being incited from his words, nor any history of him calling for violence, wrongdoing or mistreatment of anyone or any group.
Many users, observers and social media policy watchers rejected the ban as politically motivated targeting. For several months after the ban was enforced, #WeAreFarrakhan, and words of the Minister were reposted, flooding the platforms with his image and viewpoints. Mr. Muhammad anticipates the same reaction with the Twitter decision.
“They obviously have not learned the lesson of the Facebook and Instagram ban,” he said. “You saw more of Minister Farrakhan’s videos, his words … more of the witness bearers coming out of the woodwork testifying of what he has done for them.”
Minister Farrakhan is on record advocating against negative expressions on social media—even when those who love him are responding to attacks against him. The Nation of Islam has codified Minister Farrakhan’s positions in a “Social Media Guidebook: The Wise Use of Social Media.”
In speeches, Minister Farrakhan has said social media has been a tool that has freed the masses and the masses see him as a prominent voice in that awakening.
Dr. Jared Ball, professor of communications at Morgan State University, called for developing alternative and independent media outlets in the face of the bans and he sees the Minister’s words as constitutionally protected speech.
“My first thought is that all communication is political,” said Dr. Ball. “Whatever illusions we all have or are encouraged to have … about our media environment … all of it’s political.”
Advertisers and intelligence agencies have more to do with content than actual media owners, he added.
“There’s been a longstanding problem, of particularly liberals painting with a broad brush, what they call as hate groups,” Dr. Ball said. “Whatever the Minister is saying could never be equated to anything coming out of the mouths of White supremacists, White nationalists, certainly the president of the United States. I’ve never liked that false equivalency that has been drawn between the Nation of Islam or any Black group with so-called hate groups,” Dr. Ball told The Final Call.
This is a reminder of the importance of developing independent media not subjected to powers that don’t care about the interests of Black people, he added.
“It’s a reflection of the history of even The Final Call. It’s important to remember that we will always need alternative, unsanctioned, and protected media outlets and places where we can always recreate a political and, hopefully, radical public sphere,” Dr. Ball said.
“What we get and what we have access to is highly manicured and selected,” he added.
“I am frankly not surprised at all, and I’m sure the Minister is not surprised that this would be done,” said Johnnie Cordero, chairman of the Democratic Black Caucus of South Carolina.
“They’ve been trying to silence the brother for a long time,” he said.
Mr. Cordero said one doesn’t have to be a member of the Nation of Islam to understand what they are doing to Minister Farrakhan. “That it’s unfair is obvious, but this country has never been fair to us,” he observed. But, he added, “we are long past the time when they (Twitter) or anyone else will tell us who we support … and what we believe.”
Dr. Ball said, “If it’s the Minister today, it’s been others in the past already; it’ll be someone else in the future.”
These platforms aren’t truly open spaces, but are subjected to ideological influences and groups and individuals with agendas, like the ADL and other organizations, that aren’t necessarily pro-Black, said defenders of Min. Farrakhan.
Mr. Cordero agrees that with social media companies seeking to shut down voices like Minister Farrakhan, Blacks must establish their own platforms. As a remedy, there must be investment and a strengthening of Black media organs dedicated to speaking truth to power to protect the Black voices, he said.
Still, Mr. Cordero continued, targeting Minister Farrakhan, who has a 64-year track record of serving Black people, is like putting “gasoline on fire.” In the end, it’s going to backfire on them, he predicted. What they are doing is raising support for the Minister in the Black community angered by the singling out of their spokesman and leader, he said.