Twitter has some serious explaining to do. On Thursday, the social media platform suspended the account of the conservative education publication Chalkboard Review.
It also suspended the individual accounts of several staff members. In all cases, these suspensions came out of left field and Twitter provided no warning or reason for the removals, according to Chalkboard Review Executive Director Tony Kinnett.
The publication was founded in 2020 and publishes content focused on education policy. Its articles and viewpoints often come from a conservative or libertarian point of view. Chalkboard Review has argued in favor of school choice, criticized public schools, called for transparency, highlighted outlandish examples of educators-gone-woke, and fought back against the teaching of Critical Race Theory in schools.
However, Chalkboard Review also publishes counterarguments and lots of rather uncontroversial content. Indeed, the last article the account had tweeted before its suspension was ominously entitled “5 Books to Inspire Teachers.”
We still don’t know why Twitter has purged the publication and several of its personnel. It could be a mistake by the tech giant. Yet that seems far-fetched given the fact that it was not one account, but four, that were banned. What’s more, the suspensions took place hours apart throughout the day on Thursday.
Kinnett pointed out that the surprising crackdown comes amid a push from teachers’ unions and other establishment education interests to silence dissident voices critiquing them.
The National Education Association, one of the nation’s biggest teachers’ unions, sent a public letter to Twitter and other companies in October calling on them to censor more content.
In the letter, NEA President Rebecca Pringle lamented “the alarming growth of a small but violent group of radicalized adults who falsely believe that graduate level courses about racism are being taught in K-12 public schools because of misinformation spread on social media.”
She called on social media companies to do more to crack down on a “small yet vocal group of extremists who are putting the safety of our children, educators, and families at risk over the notion that wearing a mask is in infringement on personal liberty.”
“Your companies have both the power and responsibility to stamp out disinformation and violent trends – for the sake of Public Education and the future of democracy,” Pringle writes.
“To that end, we’re demanding that your companies make a public pledge to students, educators, and their families to regulate lies and fix your algorithms to put public safety over profits,” the letter concludes.
To be clear, the NEA letter does not mention Chalkboard Review by name. And we do not know whether it directly influenced Twitter’s decision to suspend the right-leaning, dissident education publication. But the context of this letter and a broader pressure campaign by forces as powerful as the Justice Department to crack down on education dissenters is too glaring to ignore here.
“I find it increasingly hard to believe that this might be an honest mistake, as this appears to be a coordinated effort to silence Chalkboard Review for providing a platform for alternate views in education,” Chalkboard Review’s Kinnett told me.
This development illustrates a broader move away from open discourse on Twitter and some other social media platforms.
Here’s hoping Twitter reverses this deeply misguided crackdown soon. And more broadly, we need to call out Big Tech platforms that are moving away from their original commitments to free and open debate—and financially support those alternative platforms still embodying these crucial American values.
UPDATE: On Friday afternoon, Chalkboard Review’s Twitter account was reinstated where this tweet was shared:
Our account has just been unsuspended by Twitter. They cite that our account "does not appear to be in violation of the Twitter Rules".
— Chalkboard Review (@ChalkBoardRev) February 4, 2022