Banning Glenn: Silencing Law on Social Media (Update x2)

Glenn Reynolds wears many hats.  He’s a professor at the University of Tennessee School of Law.  He blogs at a site called “Instapundit.” He’s a columnist for USA Today.  As of this morning, it appears Glenn gets to add one more bullet point to his already impressive resume.  He’s banned from Twitter.

What justification does Twitter have for placing a law professor in the ranks of those once deemed internet trolls, “monsters,” and purveyors of “hate speech?”  Did he send his followers to harass a celebrity on the social media platform?  Did he make a direct threat to someone?  It was none of these, actually.  Glenn’s egregious sin was expressing an opinion on self-defense in regards to the violence occurring in Charlotte.

At 8:51 PM last night Glenn retweeted this tweet from WBTV News in Charlotte, North Carolina regarding the violent protests in the wake of another police shooting.  It encouraged those on Twitter to avoid I-277 as protesters were surrounding vehicles.  At least one news report from the news station’s website confirmed protesters were throwing rocks at vehicles on that section of the interstate.  Glenn’s response was simple.

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That tweet was enough for someone at Twitter, most likely a member of their Trust and Safety Council, to throw the “suspend” lever on Glenn’s account.  A glance at Twitter’s Rules could justify Glenn’s ban from the site on the basis of either “Violent Threats (direct or indirect)” or “Hateful Conduct.”  The former prevents you from making threats of violence or promoting violence, the latter adds in “directly [attacking]” people based on their race, sexual orientation, nationality, and a whole host of other factors by which most choose to express their current victimhood.

On face value, though, Glenn did none of these things.  It appears as if he expressed his opinion on what those caught in the mobs of protesters should do if they found their car surrounded.  It may not be the most palatable opinion for some, but it’s not threatening anyone specifically or directly attacking them.  Glenn’s three word tweet apparently summarized his views on self-defense if someone found themselves caught in a situation like that on I-277.  Those three words were enough, though.  No more justification needed.  Throw the switch and ban him.

The ban, in less than twelve hours, has strangely amplified Glenn’s voice more than before.  #RunThemDown and #FreeInstapundit are both now trending on Twitter.  More people are talking about the violence in Charlotte and what they would do if needed to defend themselves and loved ones.   It’s almost as if a certain “Dangerous Faggot’s” remarks on how attempts to silence someone just makes that voice louder universally applies.

The downside to all this is Twitter’s image continues to worsen at a time when they need some positive uptick for their social media platform.  Banning anti-feminist Robert Stacy McCain almost immediately after Jack founded his “Trust and Safety Council” started serious whispers about the “Free Speech Wing of the Free Speech Party” only caring for ideas with which they agreed.  The ban of Milo Yiannopolous led credence to claims Twitter didn’t care for conservative voices.  Now with the ban of Glenn Reynolds, Twitter’s new image is they can and will ban whoever they like, whenever they like, for whatever words hurt someone’s feelings at any given moment.

And yes, there will be people who reiterate the numerous tropes and fallacies surrounding free speech.  They will also point out Twitter is a private company, free to censor and ban those they wish with absolute impunity.  These are the people Twitter will come for next.  As soon as the latest wrongthink echoes from their account in 140 characters or less, that person will find themselves wondering how it all happened.  Here’s a hint: it happened because you did nothing, you refused to raise your voice when others were silenced, and you were complicit with every aspect of the censorship of those voices you didn’t like and deletion of the nasty bad words that hurt your feelings.

Another scary aspect of this is Glenn’s status as a law professor and USA Today columnist.  A Twitter ban for Glenn signals his views on the law as less important than someone like Mary Anne Franks or Danielle Citron.  It chills the concepts of teaching the law as it stands, in a fashion that some might find uncomfortable, “triggering,” or lacking safety.  It also actively encourages stupidity, and promoting the cardinal sin of making people dumber when they encounter a legal professional.

The gig is up for Twitter, and they know it.  Now that we’re past justifying suspensions and bans on the basis of “promoting hate speech,” and Twitter is perfectly ready to censor academics with truly intelligent voices in their field, this realm of the information superhighway where people interact more on a daily basis with each other loses a bit more credibility.  If Glenn’s ideas were horrid, let them be exposed and ridiculed as such.  They weren’t, though.  This ban wasn’t even close to justifiable.  It’s silencing a much needed voice.

If you’re interested in learning more about what “free speech” truly looks like in America today, check out “Silenced: Our War On Free Speech.

UPDATE: Glenn’s account was reinstated after he deleted the offensive tweet pictured above.  He’s also posted his view of the situation on the Instapundit blog, which deserves a full read.  I quote one portion of it here to show my initial analysis was a little more on point than I expected.

I’ve always been a supporter of free speech and peaceful protest. I fully support people protesting police actions, and I’ve been writing in support of greater accountability for police for years.

But riots aren’t peaceful protest. And blocking interstates and trapping people in their cars is not peaceful protest — it’s threatening and dangerous, especially against the background of people rioting, cops being injured, civilian-on-civilian shootings, and so on. I wouldn’t actually aim for people blocking the road, but I wouldn’t stop because I’d fear for my safety, as I think any reasonable person would.

“Run them down” perhaps didn’t capture this fully, but it’s Twitter, where character limits stand in the way of nuance.

UPDATE x2: Apparently even Glenn’s nuances aren’t enough for the University of Tennessee School of Law. Now, with the full support of Chancellor Jimmy Cheek, there’s an “investigation” into Glenn’s nasty, hurtful words.

“I am aware of the remarks made last night on Twitter by Professor Glenn Reynolds and of the serious and legitimate concerns expressed by members of the UT Law family and the University of Tennessee community, as well as concerned citizens across the country. Professor Reynolds’s comments do not reflect my views and opinions, nor do they reflect the values of the college and university.

University administrators, college faculty, and I are investigating this matter.

The university is committed to academic freedom, freedom of speech, and diverse viewpoints, all of which are important for an institution of higher education and the free exchange of ideas. My colleagues and I in the university’s leadership support peaceful civil disobedience and all forms of free speech, but we do not support violence or language that encourages violence.

Professor Reynolds has built a significant platform to discuss his viewpoints, but his remarks on Twitter are an irresponsible use of his platform. (emphasis added)

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