amaBhungane is a victim of “blatant censorship” after Twitter blocked links to its entire website because of a complaint following the publication of its KarpowershipSA story.
This is comment from Sam Sole, journalist and managing partner of the amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism.
The centre said sometime during the early morning of Friday 14 May all Twitter links to the amaBhungane website were blocked and diverted to a Twitter warning page stating:
“The link you are trying to access has been identified by Twitter or our partners as being potentially spammy or unsafe, in accordance with Twitter’s URL Policy.”
amaBhungane said this coincided with publication of its latest pair of stories on the controversial KarpowershipSA tender.
KarpowershipSA won preferred bidder status for the lion’s share of government’s multi-billion-rand emergency energy procurement programme.
“We believe these two events are related, although we are not apportioning any blame to KarpowershipSA or the energy department or any other interested party at this stage,” amaBhungane said.
“What is clear is that this is an attempt at censoring a highly respected news outlet and represents an attack on media freedom.”
“It is an abuse of Twitter’s rules and we are approaching the platform both to have the warning lifted and to ask them to investigate and disclose the origin of their decision to implement this block in the first place.”
As South Africa’s premier investigative journalism outlet, amaBhungane does not, as Twitter warns, contain malicious, spammy, violent, or misleading content.
It is therefore not clear what caused the Twitter link block and warning which caused a backlash on the platform.
Many people pointed the finger at KarpowershipSA for employing a “Twitter army” to play dirty tricks, but the company denied any involvement.
“Nobody at KarpowershipSA or those affiliated to the company has reported any links to Twitter,” the company said.
“We are concerned at reports that amaBhungane stories have been blocked after being marked as spammy or potentially unsafe by Twitter.”
“We welcome an open debate on the future of energy in South Africa and nobody should take action to restrict access to any coverage of the issue.”
Sam Sole comment
The dirty tricks have really begun. Following publication of our #karpowershipSA story, Twitter has blocked links to our entire website, presumably as a result of a ‘complaint’. This is blatant censorship. @jack???
— Sam Sole (@SamSoleZA) May 14, 2021