When The New York Times named Sarah Jeong to its editorial board despite a history of racist statements on Twitter (a history vaster than originally reported), non-leftists observed that similar comments directed against any group other than whites would be unacceptable in polite society. Turning Points USA communications director Candace Owens decided to prove the point, and Twitter obliged her.
Owens tweeted comments Saturday worded identically to those made by Jeong, but she substituted “Jewish people” and “Black people” for white people, and she expressly noted that the comments mimicked Jeong. Twitter promptly suspended her account, then restored it after an online backlash and an internal review.
Twitter apologized to Owens for the “error,” but that strains credulity, since Owens expressly stated the political purpose of the tweets within the tweets themselves. The incident sheds further light on Twitter’s political biases. It can also tell us something more about the left’s general disregard for the supposed “rules” it would have everyone else observe on racial matters.
As The Daily Caller noted in reporting the story, the suspension here is part of a pattern. There are individual suspensions, such as happened to Kathleen McKinney, for a tweet opposing transgender people serving in the military and another opposing the practice of “honor killings” by Muslim fundamentalists. Comments about LGBTQ issues by conservatives seem to be a particular trigger for Twitter, even as they turn a blind eye to homophobic content from alleged comedienne Chelsea Handler and worse still from Nation of Islam founder Louis Farrakhan.
But Twitter censorship has extended to other issues, such as their initial ban on a video from Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn criticizing Planned Parenthood. As in many of these cases, Twitter ultimately reversed their censorship, but the pattern – and the extra burden carried by non-leftists on the platform – is evident.
Beyond these individual cases, there are systemic actions Twitter takes that suppress conservatives and non-left viewpoints. Twitter recently reprogrammed the platform in ways that prevented various Republican accounts from being suggested when users searched for them by name – programming that did not affect similar Democrats. The reprogramming was supposed to “reduce people’s ability to detract from healthy public conversation.”
True to form, the establishment media decided to focus on whether the practice should be termed a “shadow ban,” rather than on the practice itself. Although the initial reports focused on search results, Twitter’s own blog post on the controversy stated in part: “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).” That description sounds pretty close to a shadow ban.
As with the individual cases, public protest prompted Twitter to fix the supposed glitch. But the right will distrust Twitter’s explanation, given that current and former Twitter employees were caught on video admitting to the practice of shadow banning.
The behavior of top Twitter officials increases suspicion. In April, Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey and former CEO Evan Williams promoted an article he wrote with Democratic strategist Ruy texeira titled “The Great Lesson of California in America’s New Civil War.” They argue the only way our current political polarization can end is by reducing the Republican Party to the sort of permanent minority status it currently occupies in California.
Per usual, Dorsey attempted a walkback after a wave of complaints from the right. He explained that he merely took the authors to be employing the Civil War as a metaphor, although the analysis he thought “interesting” was explicitly based on the Civil War. As an aside, conservatives routinely get torched on Twitter for writing columns using a civil war metaphor to describe our current political turmoil.
Twitter’s official explanations may be found lacking in any one of these instances. But by current standards of progressivism, they should be scrutinized even more heavily when taken together as a pattern of behavior.
Since the passage of the civil rights acts in the ’60s, progressivism has focused on the concept of systemic or institutional bias. Corporate HR departments, police departments, schools and universities, and even The New York Times rely on a flawed test of implicit or unconscious bias in attempts to address institutional bias.
Applying the concepts surrounding institutional bias, Twitter’s emerging pattern of supposed “errors” should take on a more sinister cast. For example, assume for the sake of argument the claim that Twitter was not intentionally targeting Republicans when it changed its programming. Twitter claims that the changes were meant to target behavior, rather than content.
Twitter’s concept of who is making discussion on their platform “unhealthy” was based on their concept of who behaves like a troll – and that concept somehow does not catch a Sarah Jeong who spent years on their platform spewing hatred of white people. It captures Republican members of Congress, but not their Democrat colleagues. Is that result sheer coincidence, or evidence of an implicit, subconscious bias?
If the party or ideological labels were reversed, progressives (and their ample representation in the media) would be shouting that it was the latter. Instead, there is silence. You might call it a shadow ban of their own “rules” when they are inconvenient to their political narrative.