Republican feels ‘victimized’ by Twitter ‘shadow banning’

Republican feels ‘victimized’ by Twitter ‘shadow banning’
© Greg Nash

Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzHouse passes border deal, setting up Trump to declare emergency Parkland parents create anti-gun violence Valentine’s Day candies: ‘Don’t shoot,’ ‘he’s gone’ House conservatives blast border deal, push Trump to use executive power MORE (R-Fla.) said he feels “victimized” by Twitter after being allegedly “shadow banned” by the social media platform in what a review by The Hill shows has resulted in reduced visibility and reach to other users.

"I feel victimized and violated by a platform that holds itself out to be a public forum,” he told The Hill. “It's really frustrating to think that the marketplace of ideas couldn't accommodate the thoughts and musings that I contribute.”

A spokesman from Gaetz’s office said they noticed “a significant decrease” in their number of followers gained and retweets around May 15, about the time period the company implemented a new policy to tamp down “troll-like behaviors that distort and detract from the public conversation.”

Vice News first reported on Wednesday that prominent conservatives aligned with President TrumpDonald John TrumpJustice Department preparing for Mueller report as soon as next week: reports Smollett lawyers declare 'Empire' star innocent Pelosi asks members to support resolution against emergency declaration MORE including Gaetz, House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine — Trump, Congress prepare for new border wall fight Winners and losers in the border security deal GOP braces for Trump's emergency declaration MORE (R-N.C.), Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanWhite House, GOP defend Trump emergency declaration Rod Rosenstein’s final insult to Congress: Farewell time for reporters but not testimony House conservatives blast border deal, push Trump to use executive power MORE (R-Ohio) and Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDanielRonna Romney McDanielEx-Trump national security official joins lobbying firm Virginia abortion bill reignites national debate Conservatives pound BuzzFeed, media over Cohen report MORE failed to appear on Twitter’s auto-populated drop-down search box when users typed in their names.

Twitter acknowledged the issue, which the company says are an unintended side effect that it's working to change.

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Twitter analytics for Gaetz’s account obtained by The Hill show that between April 27 and May 18, the Florida Republican had 63,829 followers with each tweet averaging 330 retweets. During the course of that month, he had 3.5 million tweet impressions and added more than 4,500 followers.

In contrast, during the period between May 18 and June 8 he had 64,901 followers with each tweet averaging 500 retweets. Despite the uptick in retweets, over the course of that month, his impressions dropped to 3.2 million tweet impressions and he gained 2,300 followers.

Twitter’s policy changes were meant to reduce the presence of white supremacists and other extremists on the platform. It remains unclear why Republicans were apparently being targeted while top Democrats weren’t affected, according to the Vice report.

Gaetz, who has frequently scrutinized social media platforms, alleged political bias from Twitter’s executives — as did McDaniel in a statement to Vice.

“The notion that social media companies would suppress certain political points of view should concern every American,” McDaniel told Vice. “Twitter owes the public answers to what’s really going on.”

Gaetz’s spokesman said they are “aware of claims that Twitter has discriminated against multiple accounts maintained by Congressman Gaetz” and “investigating the depths and impact of these serious charges.”

The Florida Republican said he has reached out to Twitter since the reports surfaced.

“They keep telling me not to believe my lyin' eyes,” Gaetz said. “They said it's a glitch, but it would be one heck of a targeted glitch if it happened to apply to Jim Jordan, Matt Gaetz, Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Lawmakers scramble as shutdown deadline nears ‘Fox & Friends’ host asks if McCabe opening FBI probe into Trump was attempt to ‘overthrow government’ Nunes says GOP lawmakers looking through Russia transcripts, will make DOJ referrals MORE [R-Calif.] and Mark Meadows."

He named the other Republicans that Vice found didn't pop up in search.

Twitter has asserted it wasn’t targeting Republicans and will make changes to correct the error.

"To be clear, our behavioral ranking doesn’t make judgements based on political views or the substance of tweets. We recently publicly testified to Congress on this topic,” Kayvon Beykpour, the product lead for the social media giant, tweeted Wednesday.

“Some accounts weren’t being auto-suggested even when people were searching for their specific name. Our usage of the behavior signals within search was causing this to happen & making search results seem inaccurate. We’re making a change today that will improve this,” he tweeted.