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.”

Ever oppressed, never privileged: Sarah Jeong

Sarah Jeong

After the New York Times‘s newest editorial board member, Sarah Jeong, was revealed to have sent out hundreds of repellent tweets about white people between 2013 and 2015, leftist commentators rushed to her defense. The editors of her own previous employer, the website The Verge, not only stood up for Jeong but condemned those who dared to call out her bigotry, accusing people of “intentionally [taking]them out of context” and of subjecting poor Sarah to “an unrelenting stream of abuse” online.

In the view of the folks at The Verge, the only guilty parties here were those whose jaws dropped when they read Jeong’s tweets: they’re “dishonest and outrageous”; they’re “trolls”; they’re yet more journalist-haters who are “acting in bad faith” and who have a “malicious agenda.” These horrible people on the right, you see, “take tweets and other statements out of context because they want to disrupt us and harm individual reporters. The strategy is to divide and conquer by forcing newsrooms to disavow their colleagues one at a time. This is not a good-faith conversation; it’s intimidation.” And it distracts terrific journalists like Jeong from their vitally important effort to “report on the most toxic communities on the internet.” This is pretty rich, given that it would be hard to find stuff on the Internet that’s more toxic than Jeong’s own tweets. But of course in the Verge mindset, attacks on other human beings are ugly only if those human beings are members of recognized victim groups.

Jim Hoft

At Fortune, Jeff John Roberts accepted the argument that Jeong’s tweets “amount to irony or barbed humor, not racism.” Humor? Irony? Sorry, no sale. In the Guardian, Sam Wolfson defended Jeong by demonizing Jim Hoft, who first drew attention to her old tweets on his site Gateway Pundit – according to Wolfson, “a far-right blog that often publishes entirely false stories that bolster the Trump administration.” (Lie.) Wolfson approvingly quoted one Ijeoma Oluo’s argument that Jeong was “using humor to get through the white supremacist bullshit this society shovels on WOC [women of color].” Wolfson helpfully added that “Jeong’s tweets arguably form part of a genre of commentary common on Twitter and in mainstream media, from the hit Netflix show Dear White People to the bestselling book Stuff White People Like, which seek to highlight the ways people of color can be excluded by white society.” Exactly how on earth, one wonders, can Jeong, a Berkeley and Harvard Law grad and Times editorial board member, be viewed as an “excluded” individual?

When we googled “Sarah Jeong” and “Times,” the first hit was from Vox, which called Jeong “a venerated tech culture journalist” and “an outspoken progressive and feminist, making her an obvious target for the right-wing internet mobs.” As Vox outlined it, the right was out to get Jeong all along and the tweets were merely a useful weapon. Poppycock. Vox, like the other leftist outlets, rejected the racist label: “To equate ‘being mean to white people’ with the actual systemic oppression and marginalization of minority groups is a false equivalency.” Again, to describe a Harvard grad and Times top dog as oppressed or marginalized is beyond absurd – it’s a postmodern ideological construct that has no connection whatsoever to lived reality.

Pure hate: Sarah Jeong

Jeff Bezos

Thanks to the Internet, newspapers are in a bad way. Just the other day, without warning, the New York Daily News dumped a large percentage of its staff. The Washington Post survives thanks only to its purchase by the world’s richest man, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, who has poured cash into the Post in an effort to transform it into “media and technology company.”

Carlos Slim

Meanwhile the New York Times is kept afloat by another zillionaire, Carlos Slim, who topped the list of the world’s richest guys from 2010 to 2013. owned by one of the world’s richest men. Yet Slim’s cash hasn’t protected Times staffers from job insecurity. Over the last few years, the people who run the Times have instituted various economies, large and small. In 2014, about a hundred newsroom jobs were eliminated. Last year, the paper cut the number of copy editors roughly in half.

Sarah Jeong

All of which makes the Times’s hiring of one Sarah Jeong even more puzzling. In late July, the Times announced that Jeong, a young Korean-American writer for a website called The Verge,would be joining its editorial board. It didn’t take long for Jeong’s remarkable history of tweets to make news. Written between 2013 and 2015, they reveal a stunning hatred for white people, especially white men.


“White men are bullshit,” she writes. Whites are only “fit to live underground like groveling goblins.” And: “oh man it’s kind of sick how much joy I get out of being cruel to old white men.” After maintaining that everything white men do other than skiing and golf is cultural appropriation, Jeong concludes: “it must be so boring to be white.” In a couple of tweets, she seems to express approval of genocide: “#cancelwhitepeople.” “White people have stopped breeding. you’ll all go extinct soon. that was my plan all along.”

She hasn’t just targeted whites. Her Twitter record contains plenty of vile stuff about the police, too: “[C]ops are assholes.” “[F]uck the cops.” “If we’re talking big sweeping bans on shit that kills people, why don’t we ever ever ever ever talk about banning the police?”

It’s more than enough, of course, that these tweets are hateful. But in addition to that, they’re staggeringly vapid and vulgar. None of them have the remotest hint of wit or intellectual content. If somebody told you this person was headed for a job on the editorial board of the New York Times, would you ever believe it in a million years?

Andrew Sullivan

Jeong’s tweets sparked outrage. In some places, anyway. Conservative publications and websites called out the Times for hiring an obvious racist. So did Andrew Sullivan at New York Magazine. But the Times held firm. In an August 2 statement, it stood by its hire, accepting her “explanation” that her ugly tweets had been responses to “torrents of online hate” that she had experienced as “a woman of color on the internet.” Her tweets about whites, cops, etc., insisted Jeong, were a form of “counter-trolling” and “intended as satire.”

Sorry, but we don’t buy it. In what way is “fuck the cops” satire? Others didn’t buy it either. But an appalling number of commentators did. Not only did they defend Jeong – they celebrated her. More on Thursday.