The outcry over Maine Sen. Angus King’s scheme to censor anyone on social media who is critical of him is just a bunch of useless clamor, according to Portland Press Herald Editorial Page Editor Siobhan Brett.
Brett published her own commentary in the paper over the weekend.
“Five years ago, King’s campaign sent an email to Twitter, at Twitter’s invitation, that had attached a sizable file of Twitter posts the campaign found fishy, for one reason or another, wished to flag as ‘suspicious’,” Brett wrote. “And that’s about the extent of what happened.”
The obvious attempt to downplay what is arguably the biggest story of the year in Maine politics stretches the truth almost to its breaking point.
On the basis of that email, hundreds of social media users, including Maine voters, were permanently banned from Twitter. And the censorship campaign went beyond Twitter to include Facebook users and Facebook groups. After flagging these accounts for the social media companies, the King campaign also kept tabs on whether the users were removed from the platform, then later King’s office claimed censorship wasn’t the goal of the operation. And while Brett seems to think that Twitter inviting the censorship list is somehow significant, she fails to mention that the entire relationship started because King’s team reached out in a bid to censor a video of King comparing 2016 Russian hacking to the 9-11 terrorist attacks. She also omits the various nonsensical statements King’s office has produced in response to the revelations.
There remain a host of unanswered questions about the scheme, as well. King’s office hasn’t said, for example, whether the senator had similar arrangements with Google and YouTube. His office also hasn’t said whether taxpayer-funded employees in his Senate office contributed to the list. He hasn’t revealed whether his position on the powerful Senate Intelligence Committee helped facilitate the censorship campaign. And, most importantly, he hasn’t said whether he would use similar tactics against his critics should he run in 2024. Given his only public comment on the matter, the answer would seem to be, “Yes!”
From this half-informed understanding of what the King campaign did, Brett proceeded to simply declare that the issue has nothing to do with an infringement on the First Amendment rights of those who were censored — or even censorship!
“The existence of the list isn’t damning for reasons to do with the First Amendment, censorship, the oath of office or anything else,” she wrote.
In other words, a powerful member of the government conspiring with a large corporation to suppress the speech of his critics isn’t censorship or an infringement on the First Amendment. What a curious belief to hold. One suspects Brett would be singing a different tune if Republican Sen. Susan Collins or former President Trump were found to have done the exact same thing.