Twitter Criticized For Shadow Banning Conservatives

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Written by Ann Brown

 

Shadow banning. Stealth banning. Ghost banning. There are many terms but they mean the same thing. This is when someone or their content is blocked in such as way by an online community so that they or it is not apparent to the user that they have been banned/blocked.

And it seems that Twitter may have been shadow banning prominent Republicans, such as the RNC chair and Trump Jr.’s spokesman. Twitter announced it fixed the problem and is  no longer limiting the visibility of a group of Republicans in its search results.

“Twitter’s troll hunt, however, has ensnared some of the most prominent Republicans in the country. 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, and Twitter’s drop-down search bar does not show their profiles. The search menu also does not display the verified profile of Rep. Devin Nunes of California, only his unverified one that he seldom uses to post,” Vice News reported.

According to Vice News, at one point Republican Party chair Ronna McDaniel along with several conservative Republican congressmen did not appear in the auto-populated drop-down search box on Twitter. “The profiles continue to appear when conducting a full search, but not in the more convenient and visible drop-down bar. (The accounts appear to also populate if you already follow the person.),” Vice News reported.

The thing is that Democrats have not been “shadow banned” in the same way. “McDaniel’s counterpart, Democratic Party chair Tom Perez, and liberal members of Congress–including Reps. Maxine Waters, Joe Kennedy III, Keith Ellison, and Mark Pocan–all continue to appear in drop-down search results. Not a single member of the 78-person Progressive Caucus faces the same situation in Twitter’s search,” Vice News reported.

“The notion that social media companies would suppress certain political points of view should concern every American,” McDaniel told VICE News in a statement. “Twitter owes the public answers to what’s really going on.”

Republicans weren’t the only ones missing from the drop-down search bar. Several prominent racist figures on the alt-right, including Jason Kessler, who ran last year’s white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

While the shadow ban on Republicans could be as a liberal move by Twitter, but New York Law School Professor Ari Ezra Waldman said it is probably more innocent than many think. “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,” said Waldman, who testified at the House Judiciary Committee’s April hearing on social media filtering. “If anything, it appears that Twitter’s technology for minimizing accounts instead of banning them just isn’t very good.”

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President Donald Trump gestures to music as he arrives to speak at the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States national convention Tuesday, July 24, 2018, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

 

Ann Brown
Image Attribution: Trump complains that conservative views are being censored online. He wants to regulate social media. Facebook and Twitter want to regulate him. President Donald Trump at the Veterans of Foreign Wars national convention, July 24, 2018, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci). Image: Anita Sanikop