Trump blasts Twitter, accusing the social-media company of 'shadow banning' prominent Republicans

Drew Angerer/Getty ImagesPresident Donald Trump.
  • President Trump on Thursday morning accused Twitter of “discriminatory and illegal” practices.
  • The accusations, made in a tweet, stem from a Vice News report this week that Twitter had limited the visibility of prominent Republicans in Twitter’s search bar.
  • “Shadow banning” is the practice of banning users’ content from a platform without their knowing; the users’ posts still show up for them as if everything is normal, but they do not get outside visibility.
  • Twitter denies shadow banning anyone but says it is making a change meant to rectify concerns brought up in the Vice News report.

President Donald Trump on Thursday went after Twitter for what he called “discriminatory and illegal” practices.

At the heart of his accusation, made in a tweet, is a Vice News report this week that said some prominent Republicans, including the Republican National Committee chair, Ronna McDaniel, were being “shadow banned” from Twitter.

“Twitter ‘SHADOW BANNING’ prominent Republicans. Not good,”Trump tweeted on Thursday morning. “We will look into this discriminatory and illegal practice at once! Many complaints.”

“Shadow banning” is the practice of banning users’ content from a platform without their knowing; the users’ posts still show up for them as if everything is normal, but they do not get outside visibility.

A Vice News report published Wednesday found that some prominent Republican Twitter users no longer showed up in the auto-filling Twitter search box, even if you type their name in directly. According to Vice News’ findings, the names did seem to show up when searched by users who already followed them.

Twitter’s head of product, Kayvon Beykpour, took to his own Twitter feed to push back on the report.

“Our behavioural ranking doesn’t make judgments based on political views or the substance of tweets,” a tweet posted to his Twitter account on Wednesday said.

According to Beykpour, Twitter began addressing “healthy public conversation” through a variety of changes earlier this year. “In May, we started using behavioural signals and machine learning to reduce people’s ability to detract from healthy public conversation on Twitter,” he said.

Because of these changes, he said, “Some accounts weren’t being auto-suggested even when people were searching for their specific name.”

“I’d emphasise that our technology is based on account *behaviour* not the content of Tweets,” a Twitter representative told Vice News.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey briefly addressed the accusation of shadow banning on Wednesday. “It suffices to say we have a lot more work to do to earn people’s trust on how we work,” a tweet posted to his Twitter account said.

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