Twitter censored the C’est Vrai app after the social media giant made an extortious demand to control tweet content

Twitter censored the C’est Vrai app, preventing the delivery of programmable tweets following Twitter’s demand to control the tweet content delivered by the Web application.

By Progress New York Staff

The Twitter social media giant has censored the C’est Vrai app, an action that suspends the ability of the Web application from delivering programmable tweets over the Twitter service. The action by Twitter followed its demand to control the content of tweets delivered by the C’est Vrai app.

The C’est Vrai app is a multi-faceted, computer-assisted tool that provides research and information services to Progress New York. The dispute focused on recent content that the C’est Vrai app has been delivering, namely, the location of certain utility outages taking place at the apartment complexes of the New York City Housing Authority, or NYCHA. Twitter’s restriction prevents the C’est Vrai app from continuing to deliver such content, which was being served in the public interest.

Twitter had objected to the inclusion of the Twitter handles of public officials, in whose districts the apartment complexes were located, respectively. In response, Progress New York described that officials were only tagged for outages in their district and noted that several public officials had acknowledged the C’est Vrai tweets in some form without complaint, including, but not limited to, Borough President James Oddo (R-Staten Island) and New York City Councilmembers Steven Matteo (R-Staten Island), Carlos Menchaca (D-Brooklyn), and Helen Rosenthal (D-Manhattan).

This was not Twitter’s first action against the C’est Vrai app, and the number of censorship acts by Twitter are increasing, leading to the filing of Federal complaints, for example.

The restriction by Twitter began on 23 September, when the last programmable tweet was published by the C’est Vrai app. Despite arguments submitted by Progress New York in explanation for how the C’est Vrai app programs tweets, Twitter summarily objected to the use of public officials’ tags, writing, “We can only consider a request to reactivate your app after you agree to stop this behavior.” Because Progress New York interpreted Twitter’s response as extortious, Progress New York would not respond to a criminal threat that was intent on undermining Progress New York’s constitutional right to operate a free press. As a result, Progress New York replied, in relevant part, to Twitter, “Progress New York is a news organisation. Regrettably, this is not the first time we have faced extortion or attempts at extortion. We don’t respond to extortion or attempts at extortion.”

Prior to the current example of prior restraint on Progress New York, Twitter had restricted the ability of the C’est Vrai app from publishing tweets about certain utility outages at NYCHA apartment complexes in July, when Twitter improbably complained that the location of certain utility outages was private information (“You may not publish or post other people’s private information without their express authorization and permission.”), even though such information has been being published by NYCHA on its own Web site. Twitter subsequently restored the ability of the C’est Vrai app to publish programmable tweets after Progress New York set Twitter straight about the public nature of the NYCHA information. Notwithstanding, Twitter found another reason (the inclusion of tags) to shut down the publication of certain utility outages taking place at NYCHA. It’s not known if a complaint filed in bad faith was responsible for the latest act of censorship. Twitter refused to answer a request for information about complaints filed against the C’est Vrai app.

The last programmable tweet delivered by the C’est Vrai app.

In exercising its monopolistic muscle, Twitter is a social media giant that can affect the journalism industry and the functions of democracy.

During the 2020 Federal election cycle, social media giants Twitter and Facebook have faced calls to eliminate “fake news” from the social media platforms. Twitter operates the largest micro-blogging social media site in the world with over 300 million active users. Networks of social media users have developed to spread false, misleading, or biased information in the heated online discourse pivoting around the culture wars and political campaigns. This week, Twitter blocked the ability of any of its users from sharing a URL link to a report published by the New York Post about Hunter Biden‘s leaked emails. Mr. Biden is the son of former Vice President Joseph Biden (D), the current Democratic Party nominee for president. Critics accused Twitter of censorship, accusations that were also made against Facebook.

The block triggered the suspension of the White House press secretary’s personal Twitter account, as reported by the foreign press, and a snowball of outrage on the domestic front. The political fallout has led to the Republican National Committee to file a complaint with the U.S. Federal Election Commission, according to a report published by the Post.