We’ve seen a slow but steady crackdown on anything having to do with gun ownership on social media over the last few years, from the recent demonetizing of some gun channels on YouTube to Facebook’s ban on advertising sales of firearms or ammunition. Now we’re starting to see individual accounts being targeted. John Lott’s Twitter account was recently locked by the company, apparently over a tweet about the active assailant attack in New Zealand, though how the tweet violated Twitter’s terms of service agreement has apparently not been disclosed.
The latest social media silencing appears to be the Instagram account of The Well Armed Woman.
The Well Armed Woman @instagram page has been shut down. Poof, it’s gone!! No warning, no response, nothing. Empowering and educating women to #RefuseToBeAVictim to rape and murder appears to offend them! pic.twitter.com/2azQiPZzG5
— The Well Armed Woman (@WellArmedWoman) August 20, 2019
I reached out to Carrie Lightfoot, the founder of TWAW, and she says that so far she’s had no response from Facebook-owned Instagram about why the account has been disabled. Calling it “infuriating”, Lightfoot says that the Instagram account for TWAW just disappeared without notice.
“There was no warning and there has been no communication from Instagram at all. We don’t post ANYTHING even close to being inappropriate. My focus is totally on empowering and educating our followers. For them to take down a page focused on women taking responsibility for their own self-protection against violence is a new low.”
The capricious nature of these bans is bad enough, but the complete lack of engagement on the part of companies like Twitter or Instagram to engage with those they claim have violated terms of service agreements is even worse. You can’t help but be left with the impression that these companies don’t want to resolve any issues, they just want these voices to disappear.
We’ve seen attempted alternatives to Twitter pop up from time to time, but the real reason why we’re unlikely to see true competitors to social media juggernauts like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram is simple: they’ve already got hundreds of millions of users (or billions, in the case of Facebook), and as long as the platforms work for most of them, they won’t have a good enough reason to leave. Starting up a new platform is a great idea in theory, but in practice it reminds me of the kid who announces he’s running away from home, and this time he really means it and won’t you be sorry once he’s gone. The kid’s inevitably back an hour later. There’s a reason why Parler and Gab have Twitter accounts, but you won’t find an official Twitter account on either of the much smaller platforms. They may exist to be different than Twitter, but they still need its reach and its audience.
I don’t know that there’s an easy solution, or even a solution at all here. I’m loathe to get the government involved with policing social media policies, as I think that’s likely to work out badly for pro-2A voices in the long term. It’d be great if these companies still saw themselves as viewpoint-neutral platforms, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon. What seems to work best (and that doesn’t mean it works all the time) is when a stink is raised about a particular banning or de-platforming. If I were Carrie Lightfoot, I’d be encouraging members of The Well Armed Woman to use their own Instagram and Facebook accounts to question Instagram about the decision. And of course, sharing this story on your Facebook feed isn’t a bad idea either (hint, hint). It may not work, but it’s probably the least bad option at the moment.