Shadowbanning: Twitter's Revenge on Trump
Twitter, like its Facebook cousin, now claims to have “fixed” the “error” involving the failure of prominent conservatives such as Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., to not appear in Twitter’s search box and denies it engages in the practice known as “shadow banning”:
Twitter has denied shadowbanning, saying that the apparent suppression of autocomplete search suggestions for Republican congressman Matt Gaetz is an “error.” A Twitter spokeswoman denied shadowbanning exists, and told Breitbart News that the issue with Matt Gaetz’s search results is being fixed:
As we have said before, we do not shadowban. We are aware that some accounts are not automatically populating in our search box, and [are] shipping a change to address this. The profiles, Tweets and discussions about these accounts do appear when you search for them.
Yes, Virginia, shadowbanning exists as Twitter plays “trick or tweet” with conservatives. As a shadowbanned Twitter user, I have seen my tweets suddenly become “unavailable,” followers suddenly “unfollow” en masse, Twitter analytics stats suddenly flatline and set to zero, and attached photos or explanatory graphics suddenly become “unavailable”. If you are a prolific Twitter conservative, you will be accused of “automated” behavior and have your account locked or even suspended. Once I was suspended for “aggressive following behavior” just for following all conservative accounts Twitter suggested I should follow.
Users on Twitter have the option of “blocking” accounts they do not wish to hear from or find offensive. Liberals intent on shutting down debate on Twitter, just like they have done at major universities, find a willing accomplice in Twitter’s algorithms, enabling them to get Twitter to do their dirty work. As Jim Hanson writes at Fox News Opinion:
When I check I often find that a user who has blocked me is someone I have never interacted with. So why the block? Often, it’s due to being on a block list created by a liberal activist group. Twitter supports block lists and makes it easy for users to mass-block entire universes of people they don’t even know.
But Twitter now uses factors such as the number of people who have blocked an account to determine whether to classify it as “low quality” content. The company also uses the number of complaints or reports on the account. If the number of these exceeds certain thresholds, an account can be deemed low quality and access to tweets from that user are severely diminished.
Shadowbanning takes many forms and, as social media icons Diamond and Silk can attest, is only “fixed” when prominent names get caught up in the censorship. Tens of thousands of not-so-famous conservatives on Twitter and Facebook can attest to disappearing tweets, mysteriously static or dwindling follower and friend numbers and the uncertainty that once a tweet or post is made anybody is allowed to see them.
The “error” affecting conservative lawmakers such as Gaetz, Jim Jordan, Mark Meadows, and Devin Nunes appears to be in retaliation for the increased focus on the censorship of conservatives by social media giants such as Twitter and Facebook:
Twitter’s censorship goes beyond just targeting pro-Trump accounts, they are now actually targeting lawmakers who support the President.
Last week, Rep. Gaetz shredded Twitter during a hearing about the censorship of conservatives on social media in the House Judiciary Committee. So now he’s wondering if this is why the social media giant moved to shadowban his account.
Gaetz tweeted: BREAKING: @Twitter deliberately targeting @RepMarkMeadows, @Jim_Jordan, @DevinNunes, & me to be #Shadowbanned.
Is it only a coincidence that these allegations would arise the week following my heated exchange with Twitter Executives before the Judiciary Committee??
Coincidence? I think not. Twitter co-founder Evan Williams has apologized for any role Twitter may have had in President Trump’s victory and accumulating evidence suggests that ever since Twitter has been trying to make amends:
The co-founder of Twitter apologized Saturday for the social media platform’s role in Donald Trump’s rise to the White House.
In an interview with the New York Times, Evan Williams said that he recently learned that President Trump said he believes Twitter put him in the White house.
“It’s a very bad thing, Twitter’s role in that,” he said. “If it’s true that he wouldn’t be president if it weren’t for Twitter, then yeah, I’m sorry.”
Gaetz has suggested that the biased treatment of conservative politicians on Twitter and “errors” that do not seem to affect progressive socialist Democrats may amount to an “in-kind” political contribution:
Rep. Matt Gaetz is considering filing a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) over Twitter’s alleged suppression of his account, the Florida Republican told The Daily Caller News Foundation on Wednesday.
Gaetz was one of several prominent conservatives, including members of Congress and the chair of the Republican National Committee, whose accounts Twitter suppressed by making it harder to find in the site’s search function, a Vice News investigation published Wednesday found.
“Democrats are not being ‘shadow banned’ in the same way,” the report concluded, noting: “Not a single member of the 78-person Progressive Caucus faces the same situation in Twitter’s search.”
Twitter announced in May that the company would rely on “behavior-based signals” to boost the visibility of some accounts and to suppress the visibility of others as part of a step “to improve the health of the public conversation on Twitter.”
And what behavior-based signals would Twitter use? Conservative pro-Trump hash tags or themes perhaps? Indications of conservative support may already be employed in triggering shadowbans:
Covert (and overt) censorship of conservatives and right-wingers has been a reality on Twitter for some time. In January, Twitter employees were caught on camera discussing “shadowbanning” some conservative accounts, and classifying others as “bots” if they made too many tweets about “God, guns, and America.”
Thanks to James O’Keefe of Project Veritas, we know some of the details of, methods, and reasons for Twitter’s pro-active censoring of conservatives:
Twitter direct messaging engineer Pranay Singh admitted to mass-banning accounts that express interest in God, guns, and America, during a Project Veritas investigation.
“Just go to a random [Trump] tweet and just look at the followers. They’ll all be like, guns, God, ‘Merica, and with the American flag and the cross,” declared Singh, who was secretly recorded by Project Veritas reporters. “Like, who says that? Who talks like that? It’s for sure a bot.”…
“So if there’s like ‘American, guns,’ [in the account bio] can you write an algorithm to just take all those people out?” asked one undercover reporter.
“Umm, yeah, it’s actually how we do it,” Singh replied. “You look for ‘Trump,’ or ‘America,’ or any of, like, five thousand, like, keywords to describe a redneck, and then you look, and you parse all the messages, all the pictures, and then look for stuff that matches that stuff… You assign a value to each thing, so like Trump would be .5, a picture of a gun would be like 1.5, and if the total comes up above a certain value, then it’s a bot.”
Well, I do all of that, and I am not a bot. I am a conservative who supports Trump. Would Twitter shadow ban users who constantly say “Impeach 45” or “Trump is Putin’s puppet”? Planned Parenthood and its ilk are not affected so why should pro-life Christians who support the Second Amendment?
Daniel John Sobieski is a freelance writer whose pieces have appeared in Investor’s Business Daily, Human Events, Reason Magazine and the Chicago Sun-Times among other publications.