Twitter’s “shadow ban” controversy

Twitter headquarters, San Francisco

Last summer, the Vice website reported that some Twitter users were being “shadow banned” – meaning that while the users themselves could see their tweets online, nobody else could. The targets of this ban were, it appeared, mostly conservatives. Among them were several members of Congress, Republican Party chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, and a spokesman for Donald Trump, Jr.

“Type in the names of McDaniel, conservative members of Congress like Reps. Mark Meadows, Jim Jordan, and Matt Gaetz, and Trump Jr.’s spokesman Andrew Surabian, for example,” noted Vice, “and Twitter’s drop-down search bar does not show their profiles.”

James O’Keefe

Soon after the Vice article appeared, President Trump tweeted about the alleged shadow banning. James O’Keefe of Project Veritas released a video in which a Twitter engineer confirmed the charge.

But Twitter denied it. In Britain, the Bible of the left, the Guardian, presented the whole thing as a right-wing conspiracy theory – “the latest iteration of an idea, bubbling away since the last election, that conservatives are being silenced by social media companies.”

Jim Jordan

To be sure, the Guardian acknowledged, Twitter had made changes in its algorithms that make “badly behaved users…less visible on the site.” Does this mean that in the Twitterverse, writing critically about Communism and bloodthirsty dictators amounts to bad behavior?

In any event, the bottom line from Jack Dorsey’s corporate headquarters was clear. “We do not shadow ban,” a Twitter spokesperson told the Guardian. And the Guardian bought it.

So, with few if any exceptions, did the rest of the left-wing media on both sides of the Atlantic.

At the website called The Verge, one Casey Newton called the very idea that Twitter was shadow banning “infuriating” and “very dumb.” Twitter “is in no way doing” this, insisted Newton.

At The Next Web, one Bryan Clark agreed that Twitter couldn’t possibly be banning conservatives because “Dorsey, by all accounts, is a smart man” and a smart man wouldn’t do such a thing. The proposition that Twitter was silencing conservatives, wrote Clark, was part of “the Republican war on truth.”

Brian Feldman

At New York Magazine, Brian Feldman dismissed the shadow-ban charged as fantasy of “the conspiracy-minded.” If prominent conservatives were having trouble with social media, he suggested, it might be because they were more likely than their left-wing counterparts to interact with fringe accounts…if not actually spread falsehoods and sensationalized outrage.”

Even Vice, in an update, wrote that “Twitter appears to have adjusted its platform overnight to no longer limit the visibility of some prominent Republicans in its search results.”

Jack Dorsey on Capitol Hill last September

One thing you might be able to say of Twitter is that as of last summer they still had a degree of plausible deniability. No more.

Since then, the Twitter bans have only accelerated – and, if anything, have seemed less and less justifiable.

On September 5, 2018, Twitter founder and CEO Jack Dorsey told the House Energy and Commerce Committee that Twitter doesn’t “consider political viewpoints, perspectives, or party affiliation in any of our policies or enforcement decisions….Impartiality is our guiding principle.”

The very next day, Twitter permanently suspended conservative TV host Alex Jones (Infowars).

In October, Twitter permanently banned the conservative comic and pundit Gavin McInnes, supposedly for his association with the Proud Boys, a racially diverse, non-violent group that opposes identity politics and has been falsely tagged as racist and violent.

Laura Loomer

Meanwhile, as we noted earlier this week, local Antifa groups that are genuinely dangerous have been allowed to keep their Twitter accounts.

In November, conservative activist Laura Loomer was permanently banned for tweeting the following: “Isn’t it ironic how the twitter moment used to celebrate ‘women, LGBTQ, and minorities’ is a picture of Ilhan Omar? Ilhan is pro Sharia Ilhan is pro-FGM Under Sharia, homosexuals are oppressed & killed. Women are abused & forced to wear the hijab. Ilhan is anti Jewish.” Every word was true.

Ilhan Omar

Of course, Omar, the new Muslim Congresswoman from Minnesota who has already been forced by House colleagues to apologize for vile tweets about Jews, still retains her Twitter account.

Yet on September 14, 2018, Slate fiercely defended Twitter from charges of bias, insisting that “conservative users…have been misleadingly accusing the platform of shadow banning and removing accounts to suppress their viewpoints.”

One thought on “Twitter’s “shadow ban” controversy

  1. Here in the unbiased tech industry, we’re working hard to make sure the “Trump situation” doesn’t happen again in 2020…for your own good of course.

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