Twitter suspends account of @JeanetteJing, vocal Bernie Sanders supporter

For much of this primary season, Twitter user Jeanette Sandernista (@JeanetteJing) has played a vital role in getting the word out about Bernie Sanders, compiling credible articles and videos about why the Vermont senator is great and, conversely, why Hillary Clinton is shady, hawkish, neoliberal scum nobody in their right mind should vote to nominate. I, myself, have often drawn on the treasure trove of resources linked to in her pinned tweet when researching the subject.

Now, it seems, this vocal Sanders supporter has had her account suspended, and her fellow Sandernistas are not happy about it.

In a Reddit thread posted Friday morning, Jeanette’s fellow Sandernistas discussed her removal from Twitter and planned a hashtag campaign to call attention to her plight. Posters in this threat allege that Twitter has already removed several of their hashtags from their trending topics:

Screen Shot 2016-05-13 at 12.50.04 PM

The news seems to be spreading regardless; a search for #FreeJeanetteJing returns an endless scroll of results. A number of users have replaced their avatars with some variation of hers.

While it’s easy to get bogged down in conspiracy theories about suppression of political dissent, it’s probably more likely that some pro-Clinton operatives flooded the service with complaints about Jing’s account until it was suspended by some automatic algorithm. Given the amount of outcry being directed at Twitter @support, I’d be surprised if Jing’s account wasn’t back up by the end of the day. Twitter’s terms of service reserve the right to suspend accounts for hate speech or abusive behavior, but I highly doubt Jing was spouting rape threats or racial slurs.

But it does beg the question: Given that they market themselves as platforms, rather than media companies, what, if any, responsibility does Twitter and Facebook have to facilitate the free exchange of ideas? As private companies, of course, they’re not under any legal obligation to honor the First Amendment and can promote or suppress speech however they see fit. And it’s fully within their rights (and some would say, their responsibilities) to keep their platforms from being used for hate speech, harassment, or abuse.

But given their major reach and influence, and given the ostensible neutrality of “trending topics,” these companies have an ethical responsibility to disclose any editorial bias that may be present. Just as it’s starting to come out that Facebook actively promotes and suppresses stories via secret contractors who aren’t allowed to talk about their work, it may soon become apparent that Twitter is doing the same. There’s nothing wrong with having an editorial point of view — Lord knows we have one here at Death and Taxes — but it’s another thing entirely to hold that view while feigning cold, algorithmic neutrality. We have reached out to Twitter for comment.

In any case, Jeanette’s YouTube channel is still very much alive. Here’s one she posted about the Clintons’ dubious role in black history.

[h/t Reddit]