Donald Trump on Thursday vowed to put a stop to so-called “Shadow Banning” on Twitter, The New York Post is reporting. Several Republicans claim that the practice is costing them their visibility on the social media platform.
In a Thursday tweet, Trump called the practice illegal and promised that the White House will “look into” it.
“Twitter ‘SHADOW BANNING’ prominent Republicans. Not good. We will look into this discriminatory and illegal practice at once! Many complaints.”
Specifically, Republicans Matt Gaetz of Florida, Mark Meadows of North Carolina, and Jim Jordan of Ohio all complain that they’ve been “shadow banned.”
What Is “Shadow Banning”?
According to a 2014 Wired report, “shadow banning” (also called stealth banning, ghost banning, or comment ghosting) is the practice of limiting a user’s posts on social media, comments sections, and so on, in such a way that the user isn’t aware that they’ve been banned.
“If you simply ban trolls—kicking them off your board—you nurture their curdled sense of being an oppressed truth-speaker. Instead, the moderators rely on making the comments less prominent.”
Though originally discussed in the context of message boards and comments sections, the practice can extend to social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
What could go wrong? https://t.co/yOQAa95XoP
— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) July 26, 2018
What Does This Have To Do With Politicians, Republicans Specifically?
As previously reported by the Inquisitr, Twitter has been purging what it deems as fake or suspicious accounts. Politicians and celebrities have been affected the most; after all, they’re likely to have the most followers. By deleting fake followers, some prominent Twitter users have seen their number of followers fall. Barack Obama, for example, lost 2 million followers; Donald Trump lost 400,000.
The problem is that the number of followers you have increases your visibility on Twitter to users who don’t follow you. So by purging a politician’s fake followers, that politician’s visibility is decreased. And although that’s hardly the textbook definition of “Shadow Banning,” it’s indirectly similar.
Is It Illegal?
More specifically, lawyer Robert George Schrader, writing on AVVO, notes that since Twitter is a private entity, there are no legal remedies if a user believes they’ve been shadow-banned.
Is Twitter Deliberately Shadow Banning Republicans?
The answer to that question will depend, of course, on whom you ask. Clearly, several Republicans think they’ve been victimized by the purge of fake accounts. But the fact that Barack Obama lost 2 million followers (and Katy Perry lost 3 million) in the purge of suspect accounts would seem to indicate that the process is non-partisan.
Buzzfeed writer Charlie Warzel explains that what is happening to the affected users isn’t a ban at all.
“Twitter is not shadow banning prominent republicans. No users’ tweets — Republicans or Democrats — have been hidden. Instead, what’s happening is that certain users names are not auto-populating in Twitter’s search feature when you begin to type their names.”
It is not clear, as of this writing, what Trump meant when he said that the White House would “look into” the practice.