Donald Trump says that his tweets aren’t getting the engagement that they once did, and he blames Twitter’s algorithms and “shadow-banning” of right-wing politicians, Quartz reports.
Last week, at a “social media summit” at the White House, Trump complained that his tweets were, at one time, guaranteed to get thousands of “engagements” — that is, Likes and Retweets.
“It used to go up, it would say 7,000, 7,008, 7,017, 7,024, 7,032, 7,044, right? Now it goes 7,000, 7,008, 6,998. Does anyone know what I’m talking about with this? I never had that before. I used to watch it. It would be like a rocket ship when I put out a beauty,” he said.
Actually, he vastly underestimated the kind of engagement his tweets did, and do, get. According to a Quartz analysis of Trump’s Twitter activity, he actually gets tens of thousands of engagements per tweet, as he has since as early as January 2017. But he’s right about one thing: the amount of engagements he gets has dropped dramatically since the beginning of 2019. Specifically, his average engagements per tweet have gone down from around 160,000 to around 100,000.
Trump posited a reason for the drop in numbers: censorship of right-wing social media users, via so-called “shadow banning.” “Shadow banning,” according to The New York Times, is the act of disabling a user’s privileges on a message board, social media outlet, or other internet platform, without actually telling that person they’ve been banned.
Does Twitter “Shadow Ban”?
According to a blog post, Twitter certainly does not shadow ban.
“We do not shadow ban… And we certainly don’t shadow ban based on political viewpoints or ideology,” said the company.
What Twitter does do, however, is take a diligent approach to fake accounts. For a while now, as Social Media Today reported in May, it’s been possible for social media users to purchase fake followers. Having a high number of followers increases a user’s visibility, both to their followers and to users who don’t follow them. For politicians, celebrities, and “influencers,” high visibility is their bread and butter, and they can live and die by their social media visibility.
For the past couple of years, Twitter and other social media platforms have made efforts to purge fake followers.
Has This Affected Trump And Other Right-Wing Twitter Users?
Absolutely. But to be fair, it’s also affected left-wing politicians, centrist politicians, celebrities, and users across the board.
It may have affected Trump more significantly than other politicians, however. In October 2018, SparkToro analyzed Trump’s followers, and found that 61 percent were of dubious authenticity.
Or Maybe It’s The Obvious
Quartz writers Heather Timmons and Amanda Shendruk posit that there may be a more simple reason for the decline in Trump’s engagement: that Americans are simply less interested in what Trump has to say. The writers cite a Pew Research poll published in June that suggests Americans are “exhausted” by abusive, negative, and otherwise rancorous rhetoric coming from both sides of the aisle. That may mean that more of Trump’s Twitter followers are simply ignoring what he has to say, as they may very well be doing with other politicians as well.