Top Assange Defense Account Deleted By Twitter
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By Caitlin Johnstone - 12. July 2019
One of the biggest Twitter accounts dedicated to circulating information and advocacy for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, @Unity4J, has been completely removed from the site. The operators of the account report that they have been given no reason for its removal by Twitter staff, and have received no response to their appeals.
Any Assange supporter active on Twitter will be familiar with the Unity4J account, which originated to help boost the wildly successful Unity4J online vigils in which well-known Assange defenders would appear to speak out against his persecution. As of this writing, the account has been gone for a day and a half.
“About 8:45am CST on Thursday July 11, one of our Unity4J Twitter team members went to retweet on the account and noticed that the account was no longer accessible,” reports pro-Assange activist Christy Dopf, one of the operators of the account. “When each of us also attempted to access the account we all received the same message ‘Account Suspended’. Twitter did not send us a reason or violation for the suspension. So an appeal was submitted. We did receive correspondence that Twitter got our request and the case is currently open. Unfortunately we do not have a timeline on how long this could take.”
Speaking for myself as a vocal Assange supporter on Twitter, I can say that I’ve been following the @Unity4J account closely since its earliest days and I’ve never once seen it post anything other than highly professional-looking advocacy for Julian Assange. I’ve certainly never seen it post anything that could be construed as abusive, misleading, or otherwise in violation of any of Twitter’s posted rules.
— Lee Camp [Redacted] (@LeeCamp) July 12, 2019
This account’s deletion is just the latest in a long string of apparently biased actions against WikiLeaks and Assange by the immensely influential social media platform. That bias was made abundantly clear with Twitter’s ridiculous refusal to verify Assange while he was posting from his own account despite his undeniably being a significant public figure, and despite the fact that Twitter was well aware that the account was authentic. The platform has been receiving consistent complaints among Assange supporters of using shadow bans to marginalize their voices, as well as unfair posting locks and restrictions.
“It seems that Assange supporters have been targeted for suspension over the last few days and weeks, including the suspension of individuals (Yon Solitary, Monique Jolie) as well as accounts like Unity4J,” Unity4J co-founder Elizabeth Lea Vos told me today. “All of these suspensions are unacceptable, but I find the Unity4J suspension especially egregious because it was an amplifier of events across the board, not only actions run by Unity4J. It never broke the twitter rules and it was an activist account supporting a journalist who’s been silenced or ‘disappeared,’ so this suspension is an extension of that suppression. Assange asked us to become his voice, and platforms like Twitter appear to be actively working against the possibility of that effort.”
Pro-Assange activists have been speaking out on Twitter against @Unity4J’s removal.
“The main Twitter account defending Julian Assange, and therefore press freedom and freedom of speech, has been suspended,” tweeted comedian and Redacted Tonight host Lee Camp. “@Unity4J – suspended for defending a hero.”
“HELP!! Twitter suspended @Unity4J The global #FreeAssange supporters account!” tweeted Assange’s mother Christine Assange. “Its a central point for updates, interviews and actions re my son politically persecuted journalist JULIAN ASSANGE! Please demand @TwitterSupport and @Jack re-instate it. Many thanks #Unity4J”
“I have no doubt that @Unity4J’s twitter account was suspended because it was a hub of useful information on solidarity events and actions in support of Assange, WikiLeaks, Chelsea Manning and more. Horrendous censorship to suspend the account, @TwitterSupport,” tweeted Elizabeth Lea Vos.
“If @Unity4J is not restored, it is proof that Twitter would have sided against the Free Mandela movement, and every other mass liberation movement of a ‘terrorist’ turned Nobel nominee,” tweeted Unity4J co-founder Suzie Dawson.
The global #FreeAssange supporters account!
Its a central point for updates, interviews & actions re my son politically persecuted journalist JULIAN ASSANGE!
Many thanks #Unity4J
— Mrs Christine Assange (@AssangeMrs) July 11, 2019
Many other Assange supporters have been flagging the attention of the Twitter Support account and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey objecting to the unjust silencing of a perfectly legitimate activist account, to no avail thus far.
The censorship of political speech on online media platforms is a large and growing problem. Twitter has been better about this than the far more sycophantic Facebook and Google, but the discrimination against anti-establishment political speech is undeniable at this point. I myself was removed from the platform last year just for saying the world would be better off without warmongering US Senator John McCain in it, and was only restored after protests from high-profile Twitter users.
In a corporatist system of government, in which there is no meaningful separation of corporate power and state power, corporate censorship is state censorship. With giant Silicon Valley corporations aligning themselves with shady state-funded propagandistic think tanks like the Atlantic Council, being admonished on the Senate floor that they must help quash political rebellion, and being targeted for narrative control influence by the US military, there’s vanishingly little difference between what’s happening more and more to political speech with these tech giants and what happens in overtly totalitarian governments. The only difference is the stories people choose to tell themselves about it.
The time to speak up about this silencing is now. Your voice is next.
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2017-10-20 / Updated: 2019-02-22
The simultaneous escalation of censorship of Julian Assange’s support base, alongside the latest wave of fact-free attacks on Assange and WikiLeaks‘, raises concern about a coordinated effort to smear Assange while silencing those who counter such dubious reporting.
By Elizabeth Vos
Special to Consortium News
Consortium News was under attack on Monday, days after the premiere episode of the outlet’s live-streamed show, CN Live! The malicious attempt to shut down the website, according to the site’s web host, followed on the heels of the suspension of pro-Assange account Unity4J from Twitter.
Consortium News wrote via Twitter on Monday regarding the cyberattack:
“Our website is completely down. Our media host said we have been attacked by malware. They actually tried to blame ‘the Russians’! Every article published since 2011 now gets a 404 Not Found. They are working on it. Problem started slowly on Friday first day of CN Live!”
Our website is completely down. Our media host said we have been attacked by malware. They actually tried to blame "the Russians"! Every article published since 2011 now gets a 404 Not Found. They are working on it. Problem started slowly on Friday first day of CN Live!
— Consortium News (@Consortiumnews) July 15, 2019
The hack of Consortium News sparked concern regarding what appears to be an escalating wave of attacks on the independent press, as well as censorship of activists who support independent journalists, including WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Consortium News was restored by 10:44 pm EDT on Monday, but issues related to publishing new material persist.
As news of the attack on Consortium News spread, some Assange supporters connected the event with Twitter’s suspension of the Unity4J movement’s Twitter account. Christine Assange, Julian Assange’s mother and an activist in her own right, Christine Assange tweeted:
ANOTHER Censorship attack on the truth!
This time respected investigative journalism media @ConsortiumNews!
CN hosted highly informative #Unity4J online Vigils, where prominent professionals exposed political persecution of journalist Julian Assange
They just launched CNLIVE! https://t.co/dfUVfxxH11
— Mrs Christine Assange (@AssangeMrs) July 15, 2019
Christine Assange also wrote on Sunday that she had lost “over 8,000 followers overnight.”
CNLive!‘s inaugural live-stream included an interview with Nils Melzer, the UN rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, who “discussed his work on the condition of imprisoned WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange.“
Consortium News had previously conducted the Unity4J online vigils over a period of months. The Unity4J Twitter account was suspended last Thursday for no known reason. The ban sparked a backlash including independent media coverage from a number of outlets, as well as an impassioned statement from Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, who called Twitter “Big Brother” for permanently removing the account. To date, no explanation for Unity4J’s suspension has been made public.
Caitlin Johnstone wrote of the suspension via Medium:
“Speaking for myself as a vocal Assange supporter on Twitter, I can say that I’ve been following the @Unity4J account closely since its earliest days and I’ve never once seen it post anything other than highly professional-looking advocacy for Julian Assange. I’ve certainly never seen it post anything that could be construed as abusive, misleading, or otherwise in violation of any of Twitter’s posted rules.”
Unity4J was far from the only account targeted recently. Additional Unity4J activists, including many of those associated with running the Unity4J Twitter profile, were also either suspended or locked out of their accounts. One Unity4J admin, Aaron Kesel, who also writes as an independent journalist, said in an interview that they were locked out of their accounts within minutes of publishing an article covering the Catalonian public’s celebration of Assange’s birthday. Activist Post, the site on which the article was published, was likewise reportedly hacked in recent weeks.
On the same day that Consortium News fell under attack, CNN published a conspiracy-theory-laden article accusing Assange of having conspired with “the Russians” to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election from within the Ecuadorian embassy, which CNN described breathlessly as a “command post.” (Little irony that Consortium News was also told that their website being attacked had had something to do with “The Russians.”)
Spanish newspaper El Pais on July 9: "Spanish security company spied on Julian Assange’s meetings with lawyers"
Add little security state propaganda and 6 days later you get from CNN: "How Julian Assange turned an embassy into command post for election meddling" pic.twitter.com/7sOIKCTxTG
— Kevin Gosztola (@kgosztola) July 15, 2019
The CNN piece rapidly garnered criticism from journalists including Caitlin Johnstone, Kevin Gosztola, and Aaron Maté. The documents at issue in CNN’s article were previously described in a totally different light by Spanish paper of record El Pais:
“The security employees at the embassy had a daily job to do: to monitor Assange’s every move, record his conversations, and take note of his moods. The company’s drive to uncover their target’s most intimate secrets led the team to carry out a handwriting examination behind his back, which resulted in a six-page report. Company employees also took a feces sample from a baby’s diaper to check whether Assange and one of his most faithful collaborators were the child’s parents. This intelligence work had nothing to do with protection duties.”
Gosztola wrote of CNN’s piece: “If one reads CNN’s report, it is clear, like the CIA, they do not view the work Assange was doing as journalistic bur rather the work of an ‘enemy’ of the United States.”
Black Agenda Report Editor and Senior Columnist Margaret Kimberly wrote via Twitter:
The Unity4J account was suspended just before CNN claims to have proof of Assange contacting Russians. @consortiumnews website hacked too. What a coincidence that people who have been Assange's staunchest defenders are kicked off their platforms at the same time.
— Margaret Kimberley (@freedomrideblog) July 16, 2019
The simultaneous escalation of censorship when it comes to Assange’s support base, alongside the latest wave of fact-free attacks on Assange and WikiLeaks‘ reputation, raises concern regarding the potential of a coordinated effort to smear Assange while also silencing those who might counter such dubious reporting.
Elizabeth Vos is a freelance reporter and regular contributor to Consortium News. She co-hosts CN Live!
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An unusual increase in the size of our database forced us to migrate to a new hosting service.
We are about to start publishing right now.
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