President Trump and other notable Republicans are accusing Twitter of hindering access to their feeds making it more difficult for users to find their names in searches.
Trump tweeted: Twitter ‘shadowbanning’ prominent Republicans. Not good, We will look into this discriminatory and illegal practice at once! Many complaints.
VICE brought attention to the practice when it reported that Twitter has been limiting the visibility of certain Republicans like Republican Party chair Ronna McDaniel, Donald Trump Jr.’s spokesman, and several conservative Republican congressmen.
In question is the reason that these names did not appear in the search for the term “conservative Republican congressmen”. The profiles of these individuals did appear when conducting a full search or if you already followed the person but not populate automatically in the more convenient drop-down bar.
To make matters more suspect, according to a VICE News review, is the fact that Democrats names are not being “shadow banned” in a similar manner. Tom Perez, the DNC Party chair, and liberal members of Congress such as Keith Ellison, Joe Kennedy III, Mark Pocan, and Maxine Waters appeared in every drop-down search results instance. Out of the 78-person Progressive Caucus, not a single member was “shadowbanned.”
When VICE News presented screenshots of the searches, a Twitter spokesperson said: “We are aware that some accounts are not automatically populating in our search box and shipping a change to address this.”
VICE pressed the issue by asking why the search results affected only conservative Republicans and not liberal Democrats, the spokesperson replied: “I’d emphasize that our technology is based on account *behavior* not the content of Tweets.”
Before VICE questioned Twitter about the matter, the profiles of conservative members of Congress like Reps. Matt Gaetz, and Jim Jordan for example did not appear in Twitter’s drop-down search bar. Rep. Devin Nunes of California said his verified profile also did not appear but only an unverified one that he seldom uses to post.
After their inquiry VICE did a follow-up to report that Twitter had rectified the issue. A Twitter spokesperson did not directly comment on Trump’s tweet but gave CNBC a general statement about the accusations:
As we have said before, we do not ‘shadowban.’ We are aware that some accounts are not automatically populating in our search box and shipping a change to address this. The profiles, Tweets and discussions about these accounts do appear when you search for them. To be clear, our behavioral ranking doesn’t make judgments based on political views or the substance of Tweets.
Twitter public policy chief Nick Pickles said that limiting the reach of users based on political ideology would violate Twitter stated goal “to serve the conversation, not to make value judgments on personal beliefs.”
In spite of a history of subverting the outreach efforts of conservatives, most in the mainstream media were quick to accept Twitter’s explanation that nothing happened intentionally. Both The New York Time and Washington Post ran major articles that pointed the finger at Trump for what they both called his own version of “fake news.”
Ari Ezra Waldman, the New York Law School Professor who testified at April’s House Judiciary Committee hearing on social media filtering and is the author of Privacy as Trust: Information Privacy for an Information Age insisted, “This isn’t evidence of a pattern of anti-conservative bias since some Republicans still appear and some don’t. This just appears to be a cluster of conservatives who have been affected.”
Conservatives in and out of Congress, however, don’t accept Twitter’s explanation. For months they have been claiming that companies like Twitter and Facebook are censoring voices on the right. The House Judiciary Committee has convened two separate hearings on the matter this year.
Pro-Trump social media stars Diamond and Silk argue that Facebook was intentionally diminishing the reach of their content before they testified in front of Congress.
For the most part, Democrats are making light of conservative Republican claims of discrimination. At Diamond and Silk’s hearing, Jerrold Nadler – the committee’s top-ranking Democrat – called the notion of Big Tech censoring conservatives a “hoax” and a “tired narrative of imagined victimhood.” He called it an attempt to draw attention away from more important issues such as online privacy and election security.
But House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy is pushing back. He said, “This type of opaque behavior by social media companies is exactly why conservatives are speaking out and demanding more transparency and accountability. The bias has to stop.”
~ American Liberty Report