For some time, it has been common practice at Twitter to censor, suspend, or ban accounts which go against the site’s far-left political ideology. Virtually every right-wing account on the site has experienced this, and it is a well-known fact among alt right and alt lite Twitter.
Recently, however, the issue has been brought into mainstream political discourse, first by President Trump, and then by Republican congressman Devin Nunes. This came after it became apparent that Republican politicians were also being shadow banned. Last Thursday, Trump shed light on the problem via Twitter, vowing to look into the practice:
Twitter “SHADOW BANNING” prominent Republicans. Not good. We will look into this discriminatory and illegal practice at once! Many complaints.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2018
Nunes discussed the topic on Fox News on Sunday, saying, “It sure looks to me like they are censoring people and they ought to stop it. We are looking at any legal remedies to go through.”
Now under pressure from mainstream political figures, Twitter was finally forced to respond as to why it performs the discriminatory practice. Instead of owning up to its censorship, the company released a strange statement which seemed to simultaneously admit and deny the practice. Included in the statement were these contradictory lines:
“We do not shadow ban. You are always able to see the tweets from accounts you follow (although you may have to do more work to find them, like go directly to their profile). And we certainly don’t shadow ban based on political viewpoints or ideology.”
Here Twitter claimed that it does not shadow ban, but also said that some user’s tweets can only be viewed by going to their profile (i.e. a shadow ban). And despite the fact that only right-wing accounts are censored, Twitter claimed no political bias. Far from actually addressing the issue, Twitter obfuscated and essentially said that it would continue the practice. This half-baked response should not be enough to make Trump and Nunes drop the issue. They should also not drop the issue if only prominent Republicans are un-banned. It is important to allow other right-wing accounts which have been censored access to the platform as well. Political and legal leverage should continue to be applied to the far-left social media company. As a major public forum, Twitter should be made to allow all legal speech. Under this new scrutiny, the company is nervous, and rightfully so. It may finally be forced to allow free speech to its political opposition.