Is Twitter Censoring Conservatives? 🐦

Cliff Owen / AP Photo

Cliff Owen / AP Photo

Trump calls out alleged "shadow-banning" 

President Trump accused Twitter of censoring conservatives on the platform by “shadow-banning” prominent Republican's accounts. Trump called the alleged shadow-banning “illegal” and promised to “look into it”. A signal that his government may launch an investigation into Twitter’s practices. 

Shadow-banning 101

Shadow-banning, also called stealth banning, is a way to limit a user’s presence on a social network without explicitly banning or deleting their account. Shadow-banned users’ posts can be deprioritized or omitted altogether from other users’ feeds. In this case, conservatives are alleging that Twitter is making some Republican accounts harder to find in Twitter’s search function. A report from Project Veritas - a far-right activist group - first leveled allegations of censorship against Twitter in January.

The right is outraged by the perceived censorship. Articles from the right argue that it doesn’t matter how Twitter’s algorithms decide what content to surface - if conservatives are being silenced, that is political censorship and it’s unacceptable. Articles also point to alleged videos of software engineers at Twitter admitting to the existence of shadow-bans [WATCH]. 

The left thinks conservatives are overreacting and trying to further their narrative that conservatives are persecuted by liberal media outlets and tech companies. Articles from the left argue that the algorithms Twitter uses to prioritize content are based on a users’ behavior - and not on their political beliefs. If prominent conservatives are interacting with bots or attacking other users, that’s what’s getting their content deprioritized, not their political POV, the left says.

So is Twitter biased against conservatives?

For its part, Twitter has said the search issue was a bug that has now been fixed. Prominent Republican accounts that were hard to find via Twitter search are now easy to find. This controversy shows us one of the problems that arise when companies - Twitter, Facebook, and others - control the platforms upon which political discourse takes place in our society. Twitter does not need to disclose how it prioritizes content, who it bans from its platform or why - and that’s a problem. Twitter has become a part of political expression in our country and we ought to be assured that censorship or bias does not exist there.

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