By AMY FORLITI, The Associated Press
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Actor James Woods has been locked out of his Twitter account over a tweet he sent out months ago that was found to be in violation of Twitter’s rules.
The tweet was posted July 20 and includes a hoax meme that said it came from Democrats and encouraged men not to vote in the midterm elections. Woods got an email from Twitter on Thursday saying the tweet “has the potential to be misleading in a way that could impact an election.” The email says Woods can use his account again if he deletes the tweet.
In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press on Sunday, Woods said this means he’ll be allowed back on Twitter only if he decides to do what Twitter says. He says he won’t do that, and he won’t delete the tweet.
“Free speech is free speech — it’s not Jack Dorsey’s version of free speech,” Woods said, referring to Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey.
Twitter said it doesn’t comment on individual accounts for privacy and security reasons. A spokesman for the social media platform said by email that he had nothing more to share when asked if Dorsey would respond directly to Wood’s comments.
“The irony is, Twitter accused me of affecting the political process, when in fact, their banning of me is the truly egregious interference,” Woods said. “Because now, having your voice smothered is much more disturbing than having your vocal chords slit. If you want to kill my free speech, man up and slit my throat with a knife, don’t smother me with a pillow.”
Woods said if he deletes the tweet, it would force him to watch his step with everything he says in the future, chilling free speech. The email Woods received from Twitter said Woods would be suspended from the social media platform permanently if there are repeated abuses.
He noted that his original tweet was reposted by his girlfriend on Friday and had been retweeted thousands of times by Sunday. His girlfriend’s account wasn’t locked, which he said was proof that he’d been singled out because of his large Twitter following.
Woods, who has more than 100 acting credits to his name and starred in several movies including “Salvador,” ″Ghosts of Mississippi” and “Casino,” has more than 1.7 million Twitter followers and is known for his conservative political views. His Twitter page is still online, though he can’t access it. Many of his recent tweets include his views of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, who accuses Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her decades ago.
The meme that Woods posted in July said #LetWomenDecide and #NoMenMidterm. It claimed to be from a Democratic group, but it was determined to be a hoax campaign to encourage liberal men not to vote in November, according to the website knowyourmeme.com.
Woods called it a parody. In his tweet, he acknowledged the meme likely wasn’t real, saying: “Pretty scary that there is a distinct possibility this could be real. Not likely, but in this day and age of absolute liberal insanity, it is at least possible …”
The tweet is considered to be material that would suppress votes or deliberately deceive, and was found to be in violation of Twitter rules.
Social media companies like Twitter have come under pressure to get hate speech and posts that could influence elections offline, learning quickly that they can’t please everyone as they try to act as gatekeepers of discourse. Dorsey testified before the GOP-led House Energy and Commerce Committee earlier this month, as the committee examined whether Twitter has censored conservatives.
The AP reached Woods on Sunday through his girlfriend’s Twitter account. After he shared information over messaging, he agreed to have a FaceTime conversation so the AP could verify his identity.
Woods said he wants open discourse, and called the situation a dangerous one for free speech.
“I wish this were about an unknown Twitter user so that I could be even more passionate about it,” Woods said. “This is not about a celebrity being muzzled. This is about an American being silenced — one tweet at a time.”