Using Twitter Has Become A Revolutionary Act
So let me tell you how the world works these days (actually, in principle it has worked this way for…well…ever). If someone from what is fashionably considered a “terrorist organization”, and all you do is retweet it, you could get a visit from the Full Blooded Italians, otherwise known as the “FBI”. No really, it’s true (okay, the part about the “Full Blooded Italians” isn’t true, it’s actually the “Federal Bureau of Investigation” that will visit you, but both ideas are equally antiquated, so c’mon).
Not only will it be a “visit” from the FBI, but you will get arrested. Because the FBI has now deemed retweets as “endorsements”. You retweeted ISIS? Woo…boy, you must be a member! Get ready to spend some time in a building–known as a prison–that other countries are presently shutting down in historically record numbers (I wonder why that is with all of this supposed “terrorism” going on around the world?).
Certainly, it’s not that simple. The person arrested for this has been “followed” by the FBI for a couple of years, as I understand it, so the 22-year-old didn’t just suddenly do a retweet last week and was instantaneously arrested. No, no, this was a case that built up over time. So let’s not be so alarmist.
But the fact is that Ali Saleh of Queens, NY (the 22-year-old that was arrested) didn’t actually do anything that could be considered terrorism. There were no victims here. He didn’t even bring a dismantled clock to a school. As far as I understand it, he just voiced support for what is known as a “terrorist organization” (which in itself is humorous since I don’t see it as being any different than the Ottoman Empire, and no one has ever labelled that in such a way, not saying that ISIS are “good guys”…they’re not). And now he’s off to the slammer or who knows what. All for doing nothing more than using social media.
Yeah, yeah, we could get into the obvious stuff that, “Hey! But what if people are retweeting ISIS tweets to highlight what is happening, and not out of support?” Yeah, no shit. The FBI clearly doesn’t care about that. Their statement is clear, “If you’re retweeting it, you’re endorsing it”. Ohhh how governments love their boogeymen. It gives them all kind of extraneous powers, like arresting you over your victimless actions on social media.
Not that this is an isolated incident, particularly with ISIS “supporters”. The FBI was also able to stop a 20-year-old Florida resident from committing a bombing in Jacksonville during the 9/11 Memorial this year (2015). The FBI knew that this young man was “trouble” because of his tweets and (likely) retweets. But this creates a deeper issue. While the FBI is claiming in all of these cases that Twitter is empowering (potential) terrorists and the spreading of “terrorist ideals” (you know, like the ones that the Founding Fathers of the USA had), they are neglecting to tell you that it is also the way that the FBI sets these (potential) “terrorists” up. What, you thought a 20-year-old kid in Jacksonville that still lived with his mother knows how to make a bomb and enact terrorism on a city populous? Bullshit. The FBI gave him the plans and the knowledge on how to do it. The dumbass probably wouldn’t have even dreamed of enacting a “terror plot” if the FBI wasn’t using and empowering him in the first place. For fuck’s sake he was living in his parent’s basement (and now he’s living in prison)! Oh, and to make this even more hilarious, do you want to know what this guy’s name is? Nope, it wasn’t Mohammed or anything of the sort. It’s Joshua Ryne Goldberg. He’s a Jewish boy through and through! What the Hell is the world going to do if suddenly Jewish kids are working for ISIS, which is supposedly what ISIS is trying to wipe out?! (As ethnically Jewish, myself, I don’t know what possible conditions he could have been raised in that would inspire such “patriotism”.) The whole world has been turned upside down! Or perhaps, Joshua Goldberg is just an epic troll that the FBI themselves turned into a potential monster (what would have really happened, we’ll never know now, and take notice that this story has been buried just as quickly as it popped up…the FBI must know how ridiculous this whole thing is if people think about it for more than two seconds).
Of course, in the end of all this, you can be had for much simpler reasons that don’t have to include Twitter at all (though it likely could). Consider Barret Brown, a journalist and satirist that at one point was the self-proclaimed voice of hacker group Anonymous (and once could say, was also a “voice of reason”). Barret Brown–hero to many hackers and hacktivists–was arrested for sharing a link. Not a tweet. A link. Yes, it was a link to stolen credit card data, but what online journalist doesn’t share links to matters that are relevant to a story? Well, if Barret Brown is an example, none of them should. And perhaps neither should you if you don’t want to end up on the “wrong side of the law”. Of course, as an anarchist, myself, I’d argue that there is no actual “right side of the law”.
Which brings me to my point in all of this. Everything you do and say on the internet can and will be used against you in a court of law (and many times, they’ll likely skip the court). And until we live in a world that doesn’t have laws or courts, the use of things even as seemingly enticing and benign as Twitter is dangerous.
Oh, you don’t retweet anything or even look at stuff that could be construed as political? Sure, maybe right now what you do couldn’t be considered harmful…but what if suddenly doing something on a Sunday in the “Land of the Free” became a breach of breaking a blue law, and you didn’t know about it until it was too late? “Shutup, slave, ignorance of the law is no excuse!” That’s what you’ll get, and they could know all about you wearing that bikini on Sunday (yes, blue laws can be that simple, and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, too, read your history) because of that little tweet you sent out. Or perhaps that retweet of what you and your friends were doing. Or, heaven forbid you shared a link to something! To federal prison with you! You are a danger to society!
Yes, you can say that my example is ridiculous, but the principle of the matter is the same (and, I would historically argue, my example isn’t so ridiculous). Governments around the world know that unfettered speech and sharing of information is bad for their health, and that can’t go unpunished. These precedents need to be set. Now. Before people start getting the idea that there is anything remotely like actual freedom available to you, online or otherwise.
But please don’t confuse me, I’m not saying to be careful what you tweet, or be careful what links you share. Quite the opposite. I’m saying tweet, retweet, and share away all the links you like. But do so full well knowing that every time you do, no matter how mundane or extreme the thing is that you’re saying or sharing, you are potentially committing an act of revolution (as in, an action–even if, and hopefully, peaceful–that governments consider concerning). Appreciate the seriousness of what you’re doing. These social networks and chatrooms aren’t just there for la-di-da times anymore. They’re there so that governments can keep an eye on you, so that they can categorize you, and so that they can maliciously use you if necessary. Don’t take your online activities so lightly. There’s a gun in the room, and it’s not yours. It’s the government’s. And it’s pointed at you.
Activists and hacktivists creating their own online spaces and infrastructures that are anonymous and encrypted would be a geat way to get away from this fact. Because life should (and usually can be) fun and enjoyable, offline or online. More and more of us peacefully pushing governments and the corporations that work with them out of our daily lives as much as possible is the only way that will really be so.
And maybe that all starts with the sharing of a link, or the posting of a peaceful revolutionary tweet.