“We do not comment on individual accounts, for privacy and security reasons. Our rules outline content boundaries on the platform, which prohibit posting another person’s private information (home address, credit card number, Social Security number, etc.).”
Those are the profound words of Nu Wexler, former flack to Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who now works for Twitter as their senior communications manager. He previously worked for Walmart and the South Carolina Democratic Party. Nu was responding to my questions about GotNews editor-in-chief Charles C. Johnson (the C. is now vital) getting suspended from Twitter at around 1 a.m. this morning Pacific Time for tweeting at 10:45 PST that “Nina Pham” was the nurse who got infected with the Ebola virus after caring for Thomas Eric Duncan, who is now dead. This is Johnson’s second suspension.
I had a follow-up on why breaking news is out of bounds on Twitter, but Nu appears to be done communicating.
“This censorship is part of a well orchestrated smear campaign against independent journalists led by lefty trolls who don’t want Americans to know the truth,” C. Johnson told The Mirror. “I make a lifelong commitment to open information and I will fight my suspension with everything I’ve got.”
Before Johnson broke the news, news outlets such as Politico and others were not reporting her name. As of last night, however, CNN’s Anderson Cooper began saying it, and this morning, MSNBC was all over it — she’s now the famous Dallas nurse who’s being hailed as a hero for coming down with the Ebola virus. After Yahoo! News national reporter Jason Sickles reported the news, Johnson reached out to ask why he got no credit for it. Sickles claimed they had the name prior to Johnson’s reporting but was waiting on Pham’s family to allow it.
Please note: In actual reporting, it counts when you publish something not when you knew it. And since when do we wait on family to grant permission to the news media to break news?
Enter Charles C. Johnson’s main nemesis: Charles F. Johnson, a.k.a. a guy who writes a blog called “Little Green Footballs.” He says he’s been a blogger for 13 years. He says he’s often confused for Charles C. Johnson, a fact he abhors. Before blogging, this Charles Johnson was a guitarist and played with the likes of Al Jarreau, Stanley Clarke and George Duke.
He adamantly believes Charles. C. Johnson is scum for reporting the nurse’s name.
“My main issue is he didn’t confirm this information before publishing it,” Johnson #2 said in a lengthy phone conversation from LA where he lives. “He got it directly from a tipoff on Twitter.” How does he know how Johnson acquired the information? “I saw it all go down,” he said, referring only to Twitter, which is not exactly a person’s only method of reporting. “That is the difference between what he does and the mainstream media does. They confirmed it with the family. He has a history of being suspended in the past. … It’s just mean spirited.”
But in a public health crisis, shouldn’t the public know what’s happening to better protect itself? “I think it’s kind of outrageous what he’s doing,” Johnson #2 said. “I think there is a public interest but it has to be balanced with responsible journalism. …That’s my main beef with him — I think he’s inaccurate a lot and deliberately inflammatory.”
Johnson #2 claims he feels no glee over fueling the fire that got C. Johnson suspended for a second time in less than a week. “It’s not something that makes me happy,” he said. “I just don’t like seeing inaccurate information spread around.”
Should Charles C. Johnson get tossed off Twitter permanently, Charles F. Johnson says he won’t be jumping for joy.”I guess I’ll be personally gratified, but I don’t take personal joy in it,” he said.
As for the journalistic value of reporting the nurse’s name, Johnson #2 said, “I think it needed to be confirmed with he family. The family begged media to respect their privacy and not release the name of the nurse. Apparently they changed their mind. …Apparently a few journalists agree with that. I think they asked for privacy and when the time came for that to change it was changed. To me, that’s not a bad thing.”
Johnson #2 insists he didn’t report C. Johnson to Twitter this time around. But he did the first time and claims they wouldn’t even read it because he had no direct involvement.
Charles C. Johnson thinks Charles F. Johnson is a joke. “You can use your imagination as to what I think the f stands for,” he deadpanned this morning over text.
“It’s kind of funny,” Charles C. Johnson continued in a later phone conversation with The Mirror. “I don’t get upset about things, which bothers a lot of people. I’m just amused by the whole thing. I beat everyone to the punch so the way they punish me is they shut down my Twitter.”
Still, his attitude is this: “I’m an investigative journalist,” he said, discussing his feelings toward Twitter and for those who don’t think he should have published Pham’s name. “Fuck you. I’ll do what I want.”
Asked if he got a Drudge hit, Johnson replied, “I don’t need one. I got 6,000 page views an hour. I don’t want to build a business on getting Drudge links. I want to build ground level support.”
Will the litigious Johnson sue Twitter? “Five of the people who work with me are people that I met on Twitter,” he said, perhaps mentally plotting how that could work. “How am I supposed to build my business? The thing is, they’re super super rich. I’m going to be that asshole that sued Twitter? Twitter’s rules are really kind of ridiculous sometimes. I hope Twitter stops being jerks and lets me on. I shouldn’t have to constantly be telling Twitter, yo, these people are crazy and making things up.”
Twitter sent Charles C. Johnson what looks to be a form letter:
At 3:34 a.m. Pacific time: “I still don’t understand why I’m being suspended.” At 3:35 a.m, Johnson again reached out. “I am an independent journalist who uses Twitter to inform the public,” he wrote. “I have been following all of Twitter’s rules and have been targeting because of the consequences of the information I have revealed. Please reactivate my account.”
The Mirror reached out to Twitter’s Nu Wexler because a) I thought he might be helpful and b) I wanted him to answer a simple question: Why should a reporter get kicked off Twitter for reporting news?
I was fully wrong in thinking either of those things would happen.
Question: If a Sam Stein (HuffPost White House correspondent) or even a Robert Costa (WaPo conservative-leaning political correspondent) had written Nina Pham’s name on Twitter, would they be suspended? I have a hard time believing they would’ve suffered the same online fate as Charles C. Johnson, who Twitter suspended for the first time last week because he published the address of a woman under quarantine who was caring for Duncan. Twitter reinstated him quickly.
Charles C. Johnson, in a plea to Nu Wexler earlier today, wrote: “Hello Nu, I’m trying to figure out why I was suspended from Twitter. It’s clear that I have violated none of the TOS through my reporting. I broke a significant news story and was targeting for it by people who don’t like my politics. I really hope you guys will restore my Twitter immediately. Thanks, Charles C. Johnson”
So far, silence.
“Still suspended, no response,” C. Johnson said as of 6:10 p.m. EST.