EXCLUSIVE: Twitter Employs Censorship Filter to Briefly Ban Discussion of GiveSendGo

EXCLUSIVE: Twitter Employs Censorship Filter to Briefly Ban Discussion of GiveSendGo
Photo by Joshua Hoehne / Unsplash

Elon Musk's staff manipulates information security tools, disrupting user conversation and raising new ethical concerns

On Saturday, May 13, 2023, the donation site GiveSendGo went down.

Known for its previous involvement in right-wing causes including the collection of donations for Kyle Rittenhouse and its recent involvement in the case of alleged killer Daniel Penny, the platform was thrust in the public spotlight this week largely due to a shocking endorsement from Governor Ron DeSantis, who called Penny a "Good Samaritan".

The story about the site going down was initially broken by Talia Jane, an independent reporter who covers protests, social justice, policing, and extremism.

Sometime prior to 2:12 PM Eastern, the site became unresponsive, displaying an error message viewable on downforeveryoneorjustme, which confirms whether a website-wide error exists or if the error is more limited in nature.

A screenshot of GiveSendGo.com on May 13, 2023

GiveSendGo appeared to be routing traffic to the security protection firm Cloudflare in the usual manner, leaving the source of the interruption shrouded in mystery.

But it was what transpired during this temporary downtime that truly sparked interest: Twitter users discovered a sudden inability to communicate about GiveSendGo.

Messages that included the site's name ("GiveSendGo") or acronym ("GSG") simply failed to send. Tweets highlighting this issue were inexplicably suppressed with no views, creating an odd sense of digital censorship.

This unexpected restriction sparked frustration and alarm as I asked my friends to confirm what I was seeing using their own accounts. They also were limited from sending Direct Messages containing these words.

However, within a few perplexing minutes, GiveSendGo's website resurfaced, the error message replaced with the normal site and a staggering figure on Penny's donation page: more than 1 million dollars.

Immediately after the site came back online, the mysterious filter that had momentarily silenced Twitter chatter about GiveSendGo disappeared. Users were once again free to mention the donation site by name or acronym in their messages and tweets, which no longer appeared to be artificially suppressed by the platform.

How Did Twitter Achieve This Censorship?

Word filters on social media platforms have traditionally been implemented as part of moderation policies and information security efforts. Their primary purpose is to safeguard the user experience and to prevent the spread of harmful or inappropriate content. For instance, these filters can be utilized to halt the dissemination of links hosting malware, stopping bad actors from exploiting the platform to engage in cybercrimes. In essence, these filters act as a critical line of defense in maintaining a safe, respectful digital environment by proactively intercepting and neutralizing potential threats before they reach a broad audience.

However, there is growing concern that these crucial information security tools, originally implemented as defensive mechanisms, are being subverted by some of Twitter's newer staff members who don't adhere to the same ethical limitations. These tools, which were always intended to protect users and maintain the integrity of the platform, are being visibly manipulated in ways that undermine their original purpose, directly causing an erosion of digital rights.

It's a concerning trend (and not the first time at Twitter since Elon Musk's takeover) which reveals a total shift in company culture, with these new staff members appearing to prioritize personal or corporate interests over the safety and free speech rights of users.

This misuse of security tools is yet another clear warning sign of the need for stronger oversight and clearer ethical guidelines within these social media companies.

This peculiar sequence of events in the midst of a high-profile case has left observers intrigued, raising continued questions about the transparency and integrity of Twitter who has fought tooth and nail to convince us that it really cares about the "free speech" of its users.

Thanks for reading.