Republican feels ‘victimized’ by Twitter ‘shadow banning’

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

Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzThe federal government must stop stifling medical marijuana research Hillicon Valley: Twitter chief faces GOP anger over bias | DOJ convenes meeting on bias claims | Rubio clashes with Alex Jones | DHS chief urges lawmakers to pass cyber bill | Sanders bill takes aim at Amazon Conservatives blame McCarthy for Twitter getting before favorable committee 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 TrumpLondon terror suspect’s children told authorities he complained about Trump: inquiry The Memo: Tide turns on Kavanaugh Trump to nominate retiring lawmaker as head of trade agency MORE including Gaetz, House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsConservatives left frustrated as Congress passes big spending bills Graham to renew call for second special counsel Hillicon Valley: Sanders finds perfect target in Amazon | Cyberattacks are new fear 17 years after 9/11 | Firm outs alleged British Airways hackers | Trump to target election interference with sanctions | Apple creating portal for police data requests MORE (R-N.C.), Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanRussia docs order sets Trump on collision with intel community The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh and his accuser will testify publicly Jordan says FBI used 'crushing power of the state' to probe Trump campaign based on dossier MORE (R-Ohio) and Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDanielRonna Romney McDanielTrump fundraiser at Trump Hotel charges 0k per person GOP chairwoman accuses Scarborough of using 9/11 to 'score political points' White House changed cellphone policy after Omarosa recording in Situation Room: 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 NunesRussia probe accelerates political prospects for House Intel Dems Nunes: Russia probe documents should be released before election Gowdy: House Intel panel should release all transcripts from Russia probe 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.