At ZAM we normally don’t do anti-tech-Silicon-Valley conspiracy theories. But last week this position was put to the test. The reason: a tweet in which we wrote about Bill Gates’ objections to a requested waiver of COVID-19 vaccine patent rights to lower income countries. Twitter’s algorithms promptly blocked our account as ’violating our policy on spreading misleading and potentially harmful information related to COVID-19 ’.
The same happened the day before to the South African online magazine The Continent. Their reasonable and considered article on Gates’ opinion led to first their account being taken out, then also editor Simon Allison’s. It was his article we had tweeted about.
It would seem that simply questioning the tech billionaire’s views set off Twitter algorithms’ alarm bells, even if this has nothing to do with ‘misleading and potentially harmful information related to COVID 19’ or to anything at all. But when we appealed the decision, a ‘conversation’ with Twitter delivered this immortal phrase: there is a violation because there is a violation.
Our tweet is gone now. In order to regain our voice, we may have to do what The Continent did earlier: talk of Gill Bates to escape the algorithm, maybe later to morph to Will Hates, and so on. It would be funny if it wasn’t so scary.