Above photo: Screenshot showing the @HoodCommunist Twitter account was suspended. Screenshot from Twitter.
The fact that private companies like Twitter can ban entire accounts without notice, explanation, or recourse is a clear sign that we need to build community and organizing networks that can be sustained if and when it happens to us.
Erica Ryan, one of the members of the Hood Communist collective, says that the group’s suspension from Twitter shows just how important on-the-ground, in-person organizing really is. Ryan spoke to The Real News Network by phone on April 2, a few days after the suspension took place.
The Hood Communist website covers news, opinion, and theory. Although their contributors all also do other forms of movement work, they are all bound together by what they call Principles of Unity: African unity, anti-Imperialism, decolonization, self determination and right to self defense, anti-patriarchy, abolition, and no ‘dear white people articles.’ At the time it was suspended, @hoodcommunist had over 30,000 followers.
The account has been suspended since March 29. Ryan said she heard about the suspension in an editorial group chat. She’d been out organizing earlier that day for the International Day of Solidarity for Haiti. And it wasn’t just the @HoodCommunist account that was suspended: Two pages tied to the All African People’s Revolutionary Party, which three Hood Communist editors are a part of, were also locked. Twitter has not yet given Hood Communist any notice about why they are suspended and whether their account will ever be reinstated.
Privately owned media outlets like Twitter and Facebook have long faced criticism about the fact that it is much easier for white, right-leaning accounts to stay active while spreading lies and promoting violence. Former President Donald Trump was allowed to stay on Twitter for most of his presidency, despite the fact that he used the platform to elevate hatred and incite violence.
In a post on the website about the suspension, the collective said that they had been harassed for tweeting their thoughts on the United States’ rhetoric towards China:
“Funny enough, our suspension comes after a weekend full of targeted harassment from Twitter racists and chauvinist US leftists who seethe at the idea of colonized unity within the US and throughout the third world. Our suspension comes after a weekend full of targeted harassment for speaking out against Cold War rhetoric directed at the Communist Party of China. All people seriously concerned with revolution MUST take a stand against this imperialist propaganda, wherever it may appear. As “leftists” in the core of the empire, we need to understand that if our message aint anti-imperialist, we aint saying shit!”
Ryan said that online spaces like Twitter and Facebook can be convenient places to connect and spread information, but the bottom line is that, because they are owned privately, they can go away at any time.
“This is not really an organizing model that we should be depending on. I think the benefit of it is that it allowed us to boost the actual work that we were doing,” she said. “We are each organizers in organizations of our own right. This is just the collective that came together because that space does not exist.”
Ryan said that she hopes more people will become involved in organizing offline. The COVID-19 pandemic somewhat limited the kind of in-person organizing that she and others could do, but she said that the experience of communicating and working together face-to-face is invaluable.
“There’s multiple ways to be a part of something without having to be, you know, the most visible or the most active,” Ryan said. “So if being a people person isn’t for you, maybe you could help with communication … you’re still doing work towards a movement.”