“There is no appeal, and there is no explanation why.”
A column by BOB LONSBERRY
Tapping on the Twitter icon recently, as I have done for a dozen years, I found a notice from the company, under its new name, telling me that I had been permanently banned, that my account was closed and that I would never be allowed to open another.
“After careful review,” it read, “we determined your account broke the X Rules.”
No specifics, no citation, no offending tweet. Just, you’re gone. I’ve never been warned, put on probation or otherwise censured or chastised by the company. All I’ve ever heard from Twitter were entreaties – which I declined – to monetize my account and make money from my posts.
My account had about 29,400 followers and was used by me to provide news, commentary and publicity to people and events primarily in the upstate New York region. Its loss is unpleasant for me, of course, but more importantly leaves unserved the interests of those who followed it or saw it shared.
I can’t speak to its quality, but I do know I attempted to make it useful.
And, as a 40-year newsman in radio, newspaper and television, I have the ability to do that.
I’m not saying I’m not an idiot, but I have repeatedly been honored by the New York State Broadcasters Association, and have statewide Associated Press awards as a newspaper columnist, radio broadcaster and television commentator. I’m a former Army journalist of the year, have won awards as a photojournalist, and have been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. I host market-leading radio talk shows in Rochester and Syracuse, New York, and I’ve sold more books than Andrew Cuomo.
None of which means anything more than, I can probably handle a Twitter account.
And I attempted to use this Twitter account as a service, a non-monetized product offering conservative commentary and filling a vacuum in an under-served news market. I believe the account over time broke as many news stories in the Rochester and Syracuse regions as the some of the fully staffed newsrooms in those markets.
I posted documents and news tips on the account for other news organizations to follow up on and flesh out for the communities we together serve. I used it as my seat in their news meetings. I have sources throughout the upstate region and often receive confidential information from senior government officials of both parties which I distributed on Twitter.
I used the account to bring attention to worthy people and causes, highlighting exceptional high school athletes and acts of selfless kindness and service. I tried to make it a place where heroes could be highlighted.
The account successfully pushed office holders and companies to change their positions, to address problems and to find solutions for individuals and communities who had been wronged. It got dangling utility wires fixed, unkempt streets swept, dangerous conditions addressed, unpatrolled streets policed and hungry people fed. It became a place where the powerless knew their voices could be heard, whether leaking something about a company or a government, or challenging neglect and unfairness.
And, when they needed it, I kicked the hell out of the powerful. Whether they were in the boardroom or at the anchor desk or in Congress. I tried to make people laugh and think, and I tried to draw them to the account, to establish a platform for the communication of useful information.
And every day I took the account with me to the streets of the city of Rochester, where people and issues and pictures that would otherwise go unseen and unheard got a forum.
And all of that is gone.
With no true recourse or reconsideration. Twitter ignores your challenge of its decision, the politicians and government agencies that might provide relief are probably all glad to see the account gone, and there is no ombudsmen or referee to stand in judgement.
There is no appeal, and there is no explanation why.
No identity is revealed for the invisible hand of censorship that decided to extinguish an annoyance. It’s like a sniper shot: You don’t know where it comes from, you just know the lights go out.
Was it Elon Musk, who I criticized for degrading the Twitter product?
Was it the online antifa that continually attacks and silences conservative voices?
Was it Democrat operatives worried about my attacks on their candidates and office holders?
Was it Republican operatives worried about my attacks on their candidates and office holders?
Was it the state government?
Was it the federal government?
Was it the green-energy titans or the folks at some company, bank or non-profit I had held up to scrutiny?
Was it someone I pissed off in law enforcement?
Was it the DEI and CRT gurus angered by my persistent opposition?
Was it the universities which I routinely fry?
Who was it who decided to destroy this community of communication for doing what journalism is supposed to do?
I’ll probably never know.
Which leaves them free to strike again. Somewhere else, someone else, at their capricious will, crushing because they can. Silencing the new voices of the free press.
And that’s what these accounts are, an organic raising of the American voice. On a TikTok, in a Facebook Live, on Instagram and Twitter. This account had a larger audience than the first two newspapers I wrote for, and it had a more dedicated following.
And what happened to me, can happen to others, and probably has, hundreds and thousands of times over.
Social media companies want you to use them so they can use you. I fear they want to herd you like sheep, feed you videos and memes to piss you off so they can steer your thoughts and control your votes.
But if you think for yourselves, if you depart from the narrative, if you establish an independent following, well, just like with a sniper, the lights go out.
Bob Lonsberry, a Canisteo native, is the father of nine children, a veteran of the United States Army, and a newsman for nearly three decades. The former newspaper columnist, reporter, and author, is a marathon runner. You can hear Bob mornings on NewsRadio WHAM 1180 in Rochester and NewsRadio 570 WSYR and 106.9 FM in Syracuse. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org