Twitter, oft-criticized for its double standards regarding the enforcement of its editorial rules has broken a new norm today by allowing Global Times, the state-directed internationally-facing media wing of the People’s Republic of China to promote its arms sales, by specifically highlighting the lack of standards of the PRC for arms sales.
The phrase in question was “the lack of political restrictions.”
The PRC is the principal arms supplier for nearly all of the worlds worst totalitarian, genocidal, and authoritarian regimes. It has continued to supply weapons systems to Myanmar in the midst of the military junta’s massacres against civilians, it violates sanctions to supply North Korea with the technology and resources it used to develop nuclear weapons with which it threatens its neighbors, and it has helped to prop up tyrants like Mugabe for decades.
Facebook has faced withering criticism in recent years for its outsized role in international relations, such as acting as the source for the spread of racist rhetoric and communication which led to the alleged Burmese genocide of the Rohingya in western Myanmar.
Twitter has escaped much of this heat, possibly because they claim the company, “globally prohibits the promotion of political content,” a phrase restricted to advertising, not to posted content. In reality, not only do they provide a platform to rogue states and terrorists who ban the network in their countries, they widely tolerate fake users and bot networks, as well as violent hate speech when it comes directly from the accounts of political figures. They famously allowed Donald Trump make nuclear threats for years, only removing him from the platform in the final weeks of his presidency when they realized they could no longer profit off of his presence.
The egregious aspect of the post is that it is a toleration of the explicitness of the notion that the PRC will sell its weapons to any actor, and has no standards for such transactions. It could be reasonably assumed that rogue states or actors such as the Taliban or Hamas take note of such stances, and that the advertisements for weapons systems that Twitter de facto allows on its platform may directly lead to the deaths of civilians. This permissiveness should call into question the legal neutrality of a platform, and its tacit acceptance of its involvement in the international weapons trade. This possibly includes the potential that Twitter’s actions facilitate the violation of sanctions against sales to rogue regimes, or, if they facilitate transfers to enemies of the United States, treason.