Fresh from delighting white nationalists by tweeting about one of their favorite talking points, Donald Trump pivoted to tweeting about another completely bogus issue: the so-called “censorship” of conservatives on social media.
“Social Media Giants are silencing millions of people,” Trump tweeted early on Friday morning. “People have to figure out what is real and what is not, without censorship!”
Social Media Giants are silencing millions of people. Can’t do this even if it means we must continue to hear Fake News like CNN, whose ratings have suffered gravely. People have to figure out what is real, and what is not, without censorship!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 24, 2018
Trump’s tweet returns to an issue he and other prominent Republicans have been kicking up a fuss about for months: that conservative voices are allegedly being censored and discriminated against by major social media platforms.
In July, VICE ran a story claiming that prominent Republicans were being shadow banned from Twitter — a technique where a users’ posts become visible only to them, leading them to post less frequently because of a lack of online interaction with other users.
At the time, Trump said the story was “not good” and vowed an investigation, but Twitter did nothing of the sort. The social media giant explained that, because of new policies aimed at combating “troll-like behavior” the site’s algorithm pushes accounts further down the search bar if they interact with those on the fringe — which the right-wing is prone to do.
“I’d emphasize that our technology is based on account *behavior*,” a Twitter spokesperson said. “Not the content of the tweets.”
The social media “censorship” argument has also been driven by those fringe accounts who are getting banned, in the hope that more mainstream accounts would pick up on the issue — which, as Trump’s white nationalist-tinged tweet on Thursday shows, isn’t a bad strategy. Last week, for instance, far-right pundit and alleged cult leader Stefan Molyneux was given two strikes by YouTube, putting him on the verge of being permanently banned. However, after his fans raised the issue with YouTube, the strikes were reversed.
Update: both videos are now reinstated and the strike resolved. Thanks again for raising this!
— Team YouTube (@TeamYouTube) August 15, 2018
Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has also complained about being “censored” after Facebook, Apple, Spotify and YouTube took the decision to ban him due to his violations of the companies’ separate hate speech guidelines — which all broadly prohibit the glorification of violence and dehumanizing language. Twitter, however, has not been nearly as tough on Jones and decided to merely slap him on the wrist last week, banning him for seven days because he violated community guidelines by calling on his supporters to “have their battle rifles and everything ready at their bedsides.”
Prior to banning Jones for a week, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey explained that his platform wouldn’t being following Facebook, Apple, Spotify and YouTube because Jones hadn’t technically violated any rules. “If we succumb and simply react to outside pressure…we become a service that’s constructed by our personal views that can swing in any direction,” Dorsey said. “That’s not us.”
Twitter reportedly has also been planning a “charm offensive” to combat a perception of right-wing bias on its platform, which, according to Fox Business News, the company is increasingly concerned about. It plans to meet with a variety of conservative politicians and media personalities to try to convince them not to abandon the site.