Thursday, October 15, 2020

Thomas Jefferson on Separation of Powers: Too 'Political' for Twitter

Twitter's decisions regarding its handling of tweets are increasingly controversial, with proliferating claims of political favoritism, especially from those on the right. Twitter's decision to restrict the sharing of the New York Post story containing new allegations regarding Joe Biden's possible involvement with his son Hunter Biden's work for Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company on whose board Hunter Biden served, have only intensified the criticism.


But sometimes Twitter's decisions just seem downright stupid. Take this one.


A couple of times a week, I post "Quotes of the Day" to my Twitter account @FSFthinktank. On October 12, I posted this tweet: "The principle of the Constitution is that of separation of Legislative, Executive, and Judiciary functions, except in cases specified…and it ought to be so commented and acted upon by every friend of free government. #Thomas Jefferson."


I liked the Jefferson quote enough that the next day I decided to spend $50 to promote it. But, immediately after attempting to initiate the ad campaign, I received a message from Twitter simply informing me that the promotion was rejected because it was "Political," and, therefore, inconsistent with its ads policy.


Who knew that Thomas Jefferson commending the Constitution's separation of powers principles would be considered by Twitter to be objectionable as "Political"? It wasn't a tweet promoting mask-wearing or not.


In response to Twitter's rejection notice, I posted this tweet on October 13: "I wanted to promote this tweet with a $50 ad buy, but it was immediately rejected by Twitter as "Political." I've defended Twitter's right under the First Amendment many times to decide what content it wants to carry on its service. But Thomas Jefferson on separation of powers?"


It's true that Thomas Jefferson was a politician, so I suppose Twitter can claim that anything he said or wrote should be labeled "Political," even though he was also the primary author of the Declaration of Independence – and even though he's been dead for almost two centuries.


Yes, because Twitter is a private non-governmental entity, I'll continue to defend its First Amendment right to decide what to promote or not, even when its decisions are silly or capricious, and even when I disagree.


But now that Twitter has saved me $50, if Thomas Jefferson's message affirming the importance of the Constitution's separation of powers principles resonates with you, or if you just want others to consider it, please feel free to share my rejected tweet.