March 24, 2019
Middle East

Twitter accused of hypocrisy over Alex Jones and Wael Abbas accounts

Egyptians and cyber freedom advocates are urging Twitter to restore the account of award-winning journalist Wael Abbas, as the social media company came under fire for not banning the controversial American conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

Jones, the founder of right-wing site InfoWars, had his Facebook and YouTube accounts suspended this week for hate speech and other violations.

Among other theories, Jones has claimed that the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school massacre that killed 26 people was a hoax.

But Twitter came out publicly defending its decision not to suspend Jones's account, with CEO Jack Dorsey laying out his company's decision in a series of tweets.

“If we succumb and simply react to outside pressure, rather than straightforward principles, we enforce (and evolve) impartially regardless of political viewpoints, we become a service thats constructed by our personal views that can swing in any direction. Thats not us,” he said.

The bottom line, Dorsey said, is that Jones and InfoWars have not violated Twitter's rules – although in the past 24 hours the company has, in fact, deleted dozens of tweets and videos from Jones' and InfoWars' accounts.

Dorsey's explanation has been met with a firestorm of response, including a wave of criticsm from activists and advocates questioning why Abbas's account, which was suspended in December 2017, remains closed.

An Egyptian human rights defender, Wael Abbas has been documenting torture and police brutality in Egypt through his blog and social media accounts since 2004, receiving many international awards for his work.

When Twitter suspended his 350,000-follower strong account, Abbas said the company sent an email saying his account has been suspended, but did not specify why. Twitter has yet to explain the suspension publicly.

More than 250,000 tweets, including photos, videos and other documentation Abbas had tweeted "on every crisis in Egypt", were deleted as part of the suspension, the journalist wrote.

In May, Abbas was detained as part of a crackdown against dissent that has seen more than 60,000 people put in prison for political reasons since president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi became Egypt's president in 2014.

After Dorsey's explaination, one activist accused him of “hypocrisy”:

You know @Jack, when you stand up for Alex Jones and you don't even offer an explanation as to how @WaelAbbas violated your sacred @Twitter rules, you come off looking like a hypocrite. At least be consistent.

— Wael Eskandar (@weskandar) August 8, 2018

REMEMBER: Twitter suspended the account of the renowned Egyptian blogger/human rights activist Wael Abbas in 2017, never explained itself, & then Abbas was arrested in Egypt on "fake news charges." We got no tweet-thread explanations from @jack

— Avi Asher-Schapiro (@AASchapiro) August 8, 2018

Digital freedom activist Jillian York asked Dorsey for an explanation: “So tell me, @jack – why did you suspend @WaelAbbas? Could it be that you actually have very little oversight over your Arabic-language moderation team?”

Twitter suspended my friend renowned activist & blogger Wael Abbas whod used his account to expose human rights violations of US-backed military regime in #Egypt. Alex Jones uses his account to peddle hate & conspiracy.Wael has been in detention since May

— Mona Eltahawy (@monaeltahawy) August 8, 2018

MEE asked Twitter how it responded to the accusations of double standards and why Abbas's account was suspended. Elena Bule from Twitter's communications team said the company would not comment on Abbas's case.

"We don't comment on individual accounts for privacy reasons. In our Twitter Rules, we describe the circumstances that could lead to account suspension and more specifics about our abusive behavior policy," she said.

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