The Tiananmen and Twitter Massacres

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Promoted from the diaries by streiff. Promotion does not imply endorsement.
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Thirty years ago, millions of Chinese peacefully demonstrated for freedom and democracy in Tiananmen Square and all across China. What began with small groups of students rapidly swelled as millions from all walks of life joined in.

The peaceful demonstrations featured signs supporting democracy, and in Tiananmen Square people made a statue reminiscent of the Statue of Liberty and named it the “Goddess of Democracy and Freedom.” Amid the rising sense of freedom in eastern Europe at the same time, it seemed freedom was blossoming in totalitarian regimes across the world. Indeed, the Berlin Wall fell on November 9, 1989, and with unbelievable speed and nearly without bloodshed, the Communist regimes fell forever in eastern Europe and then in the Soviet Union itself.

The Chinee people and everyone around the world watched the growing millions with elation and love in late May and the first days of June in 1989. Could peaceful citizens succeed in ending the bloody regime that massacred at least 65 million of their citizens under dictator Mao? It seemed like it could!

However, on the 4th of June, 1989, the butchers of Beijing rolled the tanks, slaughtering at least 10,000 in Beijing and unknown numbers at similar demonstrations all across the country. The military and police rounded up huge numbers for arrest and execution. Many vanished without a trace and may be dead, killed for their organs or still suffering in concentration camps.

I stood in Tiananmen Square early one morning in 2014, and as I watched smiling Chinese students innocently touring the sight of the massacre, I looked around and saw with my mind the square in 1989, filled with many the same age as the school groups near me, yet the 1989 students were rallying for freedom and democracy. I saw with my mind the tanks rolling and the guns firing. And I cried. I cried for their hopes and dreams and I cried that today’s students have absolutely no clue that millions stood on that square trying to bring freedom to their children and future generations.

I later wrote an article about that moment, “I cried at Tiananmen Square.” Give it a quick read on this dark anniversary.

Fast forward to today, the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, when Twitter is in the news for suspending the accounts of thousands of people who support freedom and democracy in China, including prominent human rights leaders and activists.

In a defensive series of Tweets, Twitter claimed that this was a just a side effect of deleting ‘bot’ type accounts, but the timing just before the most terrible human rights atrocity in recent Chinese history speaks volumes. The most damning admission is “some of these were involved in commentary about China. These accounts were not mass reported by the Chinese authorities — this was a routine action on our part.”

“As part of these efforts, we suspended a number of accounts this week. A significant proportion for engaging in a mix of spamming, inauthentic behavior, & ban evasion, all of which are violations of the Twitter Rules — regardless of the content being shared or views expressed.
However, some of these were involved in commentary about China. These accounts were not mass reported by the Chinese authorities — this was a routine action on our part.”
“Sometimes our routine actions catch false positives or we make errors. We apologize. We’re working today to ensure we overturn any errors but that we remain vigilant in enforcing our rules for those who violate them. As always, account holders can appeal:”

So Twitter appears to be proactively seeking and suspending or cancelling accounts of people commenting about China? For shame. By the way, note that Twitter did NOT promise this could never happen again, and their apology was shockingly weak. The company claimed that this was a side effect of deleting ‘bot’ type accounts, but the timing just before the most terrible human rights atrocity in recent Chinese history speaks volumes.

At best, Twitter is helping enable tyranny by its actions and/or carelessness. At worst, perhaps you could say Twitter is massacring free speech.

Twitter, for God’s sake, restore these accounts and don’t do this again! You should be promoting Tweets on the horrors of Tiananmen Square, not banning them to perhaps, beg Beijing into letting you operate a fully censored version in China, one that would by Chinese law be required to turn over for arrest all who write anything forbidden (which would even include calling Xi Jinping “Winnie the Pooh”).

On this 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, it is time for all tech communications platforms to agree to fully support freedom and democracy. To not do business in totalitarian countries unless you can run a secure, uncensored system where people can freely communicate without fear of arrest for criticizing their government. And to develop tools to help spread the truth to those blocked from news of the world by censorship systems such as China’s “Great Firewall.” And to stop censoring and ‘shadow banning’ political opinions in the U.S. and around the world that you don’t like, such as from supporters of President Trump.  @TwitterForGood must also include supporting, not hindering human rights and freedom of speech around the world.

That’s not a lot to ask, especially as Americans just commemorated Memorial Day, honoring so many soldiers who paid the ultimate price in defending the freedom that allowed you to build your companies.

Today, June 4, would be a good day for all tech communications companies to fully join the side of those dedicated to supporting freedom and human rights worldwide.

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Read More Red State Articles by Art Harman

Art Harman is the President of the Coalition to Save Manned Space Exploration. He was the Legislative Director and foreign policy advisor for Rep. Stockman (R-Texas) in the 113th Congress, and is a veteran policy analyst and grass-roots political expert. His expertise includes foreign relations, border security/amnesty, national security, transportation, foreign broadcasting and NASA/space policy.

Mr. Harman developed the strategy to kill the 2013 Senate “gang of eight” amnesty bill as violating the Constitution’s Origination Clause, and provided policy advice to the Trump campaign, transition and the White House. He wrote what became the ‘bible’ for post-Brexit trade relations which was introduced in 2016 by Sen. Mike Lee as S. 3123, the United Kingdom Trade Continuity Act. Harman is a frequent guest on radio shows on key policy issues, and is an expert fine-arts photographer.