Journalists Suspended From Twitter Condemn 'Blatant Censorship' Over Russia Views

CC BY 2.0 / Jennifer Moo / Censorship
Censorship - Sputnik International, 1920, 24.02.2022
Just a week after US intelligence officials accused independent news site Zero Hedge of ‘spreading Russian propaganda,’ another alternative media outlet, ASB Military, seems to have found itself caught in the crosshairs.
As tensions between Russia and the US-backed Ukrainian regime continue to escalate, the conflict is extending well beyond the military realm. Amid a new kind of conflict that military scholars label “hybrid warfare,” one of the most compelling targets emerging for the US and Europe seems to be alternative information sources.
Politicians in London are currently demanding that Russia Today be banned from British airwaves, while their counterparts in Brussels sanction RT's editor-in-chief. Now, however, it seems the witch-hunt has expanded to those with no discernible links to Russia.
On Tuesday, the ASB Military News account on Twitter was slapped with a half-day suspension by the social media giant for an unspecified ‘violation of Twitter rules.' Now, the ASB Military team is denouncing their suspension as part of “ongoing” efforts to “silence” dissenting voices.
Describing themselves as “a team of individuals from Western Europe and North America,” the ASB Military content creators, who have declined to provide their real names, say their group first came together two years ago. They report that as individuals, they felt called to action after deciding that the “information the Western media provides us with is blatantly false” and coming to the conclusion that the general public is “being lied to and manipulated to support western foreign policy.”
“This is what motivated us to start ASB Military, and counter western propaganda,” they say.
So far, at least, they’ve enjoyed what many might characterize considerable success. After opening their primary Twitter account in February 2020, they immediately found a core audience and rose to over 66,000 followers in two years by establishing what they describe as a reputation for hard-hitting military reporting. With the consistent ability to obtain raw video from primary sources across the globe, they have on several occasions beaten major mainstream platforms to a scoop. And they do it all, they say, for no compensation.
All was going well for the outlet, they noted, until Tuesday, when ASB Military tweeted in response to a call for sanctions on Russia by EU Foreign Policy chief Josep Borrell in which the outlet “suggested that [the EU] effectively sanctioned themselves.” Borrell promptly deleted his tweet amid widespread mockery. Just hours later, ASB Military reports, “we found ourselves suspended from Twitter for 12 hours.”
Equally as troubling, the unnamed members say, was that “the column in which Twitter states the reasoning for suspension was left empty.” Instead, there was “no explanation whatsoever” for the suspension. The ASB Military content providers note that they “are not sure if these factors contributed to the suspension,” but are adamant that they “did not violate Twitter's Terms and Conditions,” a fact which they suggest “seems to be understood by Twitter” since the social media giant isn’t “able to state what we violated.”
As the anonymous ASB Military editors detail, this is partly why the suspension feels personal. On the one hand, “We live in western countries where freedom of speech is supposed to be guaranteed to anyone and everyone - by law.” But beyond the worrying limitations on freedom of speech implied by the suspension, there’s a human aspect as well.

“We worked hard for this, day and night, on our own means. Nobody pays us for what we do,” say the unnamed content providers. “We really do enjoy Twitter as a platform as it allows us to connect with a wide audience and enjoys a less suppressive set of terms and conditions than other platforms -- or so we thought, until this suspension.” Now, the members suggest, “we feel silenced and almost bullied into keeping our mouths shut, because if we don't, they will take it away from us; all of it.”

If history is any guide, there’s reason for concern. The ASB Military group points to South Front, a well-known conflict-monitoring outlet banned from Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube for what Facebook dubbed “coordinated inauthentic behavior.” “Facebook removes Russian propaganda outlet in Ukraine,” announced DFRLabs, a project of the notorious NATO-linked think tank Atlantic Council, just days after the account’s removal.
As the ASB Military editors explain, South Front was “also an anti-propaganda outlet and touched on sensitive subjects, and questioned the Western narrative- like we do. All of their accounts were banned overnight, without a single word of explanation.”
To the unnamed content team with ASB Military, and reportedly to much of their audience, Twitter’s move to “silence” outlets isn’t just unfair–it also illustrates the hypocrisy of governments who frequently present themselves as the guarantors of individual freedom in the west.

“Everyone deserves to hear a different perspective, after all, that is precisely freedom of information and freedom of speech in practice -- which our governments claim they protect and safeguard. ASB will always continue to fight for the oppressed and silenced and question the mainstream narrative, if its not on Twitter, it will be somewhere else.”

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