By Robert Jonathan
Despite insistence by its CEO Jack Dorsey that it is an impartial platform, a new study suggests that Twitter disproportionately suspends political conservatives or Trump supporters (not always the same thing).
Dr. Richard Hanania, a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University, published his findings in Quillette.
“My results make it difficult to take claims of political neutrality seriously. Of 22 prominent, politically active individuals who are known to have been suspended since 2005 and who expressed a preference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, 21 supported Donald Trump…
“Indeed, it is not difficult to find cases of liberals engaging in speech that appears to cross the line while not being punished for their transgressions…
“While social media platforms are private companies, anti-discrimination laws generally allow legislators avenues to address businesses that exhibit unacceptable biases in how they treat the public.
“It is unthinkable that we would allow a telephone or electricity company to prevent those on one side of the political aisle from using its services. Why would we allow social media companies to do the same?”
Hanania’s essay is called “It Isn’t Your Imagination: Twitter Treats Conservatives More Harshly Than Liberals.” Read it in its entirety and draw your own conclusions.
I looked into the issue of Twitter bias by putting together a database of prominent, politically active users who are known to have been temporarily or permanently suspended. My results make it difficult to take claims of political neutrality seriously. https://t.co/bDHjRYRfSL
— Quillette (@Quillette) February 13, 2019
Forget measures taken against fringe actors: The Big Tech or Big Social platforms such as Twitter and others have censored or otherwise sidelined mainstream conservative, populist, or libertarian websites or personalities for vague violations of terms of service.
Methods include algorithm changes, suspensions, permanent bans, shadowbanning, throttling, de-platforming, and/or de-monetization.
Censorship Is the New Normal
As recalled by Gateway Pundit, even the liberal website Vice reported last July that “Twitter is limiting the visibility of prominent Republicans in search results — a technique known as ‘shadow banning’ — in what it says is a side effect of its attempts to improve the quality of discourse on the platform.”
In an update the next day, Vice claimed that “Twitter appears to have adjusted its platform overnight to no longer limit the visibility of some prominent Republicans in its search results, a problem that the company said was a side effect of its attempts to clean up discourse on its platform.”
Moreover, in a study of 50 online publishers released in March 2018, The Western Journal concluded that modifications to Facebook’s news feeds adversely affected conservative publishers’ market share significantly more than liberals. The Outline came up with similar data after Facebook adjusted its news feeds to supposedly de-emphasize content from news outlets.
In recent days, Twitter has apparently suspended some users for merely joking that laid-off BuzzFeed and HuffPost employees should learn to code. Twitter hardly ever suspends leftists or SJWs no matter how abusive their tweets (including violent rhetoric) become, however.
Parenthetically, Vice Media announced earlier this month that it was laying off 10 percent of the company’s workforce.
Now that the U.S. Senate has confirmed Bill Barr as attorney general, perhaps the Trump administration will follow through on a previously anticipated executive order to launch an investigation into the unfair business practices of social media companies.
On the right and the left and for different reasons, moreover, calls have increased to regulate these monopolistic platforms as public utilities.
Will Justice Be Served on These Servers?
Unfortunately, expect censorship to ramp up as the calendar gets closer to the 2020 election. Trump digital guru Brad Parscale, who is the president’s 2020 campaign manager, has already sounded the alarm about platform bias and thought suppression. Whether inept, all-talk, no-action GOP lawmakers in Congress will do anything about it remains to be seen.
Some individuals or groups have already taken Big Tech to court, for example, but it’s uncertain whether the judicial system will ultimately intervene into the operations of a private company under current law.
“A Canadian writer filed a lawsuit against Twitter saying the social-media platform unfairly banned her because her criticism of transgender rights doesn’t line up with the company’s politics,” the Wall Street Journal reported last week. “In the offending tweets, Ms. [Meghan] Murphy wrote that transgender women are the same as men, as part of her argument that gender is determined at birth.”
Wrote one commenter below the WSJ article:
“While these platforms can have whatever content policies they want, their executives have all made public statements (some in front of Congress under oath) that they do not engage in politically biased punishments. If this can be proven to be false, they are guilty of false advertising, or perhaps even perjury.”
Added another WSJ reader:
“We have arrived at a point where any comment that at least a small percentage of any group finds awkward or distasteful is labelled by the PC community as hate speech. Facts be damned as it were, and observations or personal perspectives are not allowed. “
More Fake News Enabling
In a Daily Caller Op-Ed, free speech lawyer Harmeet Dhillon, who is representing software engineer James Damore in his employment discrimination lawsuit against Google, explains that Microsoft is getting on the censorship bandwagon.
“Microsoft just announced that the tech giant’s Edge web browser will feature a ‘NewsGuard’ plugin that will display a big red exclamation mark and a scolding warning when users view news outlets its censors dislike. Media outlets hand-selected by NewsGuard and Microsoft, on the other hand, will get a big friendly green check mark and flattering praise of their journalistic merit.
“Who are the approved ‘green check mark’ news sources? The left-leaning, establishment media outlets you would expect: CNN, The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, and so on. These are the same sites that rushed to publish dozens of demonstrably false stories about Catholic high schoolers harassing a Vietnam veteran — and wound up putting those teenagers and their families in the crosshairs of a vicious internet hate mob — and then, largely refused to apologize for getting the story completely wrong….”
“It should come as no surprise that NewsGuard’s creators and censors come from the same media world they seek to police, mostly former editors and publishers of establishment news and opinion publications…”
Other approved sources are BuzzFeed News and Rolling Stone, both outlets well-known as publishers of fake news.
The good news is that hardly anyone uses the Edge browser.
A registered independent, Robert Jonathan is a longtime writer/editor for viral news aggregation websites with a focus on politics and other trending topics. He earned a Juris Doctorate degree from “a law school the basketball teams can be proud of.”
Follow Robert Jonathan on Twitter @newseditor2010.
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