Ted Cruz, Twitter spar over immigration tweets from right-wing think tank

Ted Cruz, Twitter spar over immigration tweets from right-wing think tank
© Greg Nash

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzViral video shows O’Rourke air-drumming to the Who’s ‘Baba O’Riley’ after Cruz debate Five takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's fiery first debate NY Times, McCabe give Trump perfect cover to fire Rosenstein, Sessions MORE (R-Texas) attacked Twitter on Thursday after the company mistakenly barred some tweets from the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), a think tank that favors restrictions on immigration.

“Does Twitter now ban the plain text of federal law?” Cruz asked on Twitter, in reference to CIS’s claim that several of its tweets were not allowed to be promoted on the platform for using the term “illegal alien.”

The think tank, which has been labeled as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, said that after several of its tweets were denied paid promotion status, it assumed the tweets' inclusion of the phrase “illegal alien” helped drive Twitter's decision. 

CIS representatives told The Hill that they reached out to Twitter to ask why the organization's tweets were initially denied promotion status and said they received a “boilerplate answer,” which said the speech was hate content, without further explanation.

Spokespeople for CIS said their guess was based on their lack of a full explanation from Twitter.

“Because they don’t tell us how they filter, the best thing we can do is guess,” one CIS spokesperson said.

CIS expressed outrage with Twitter in a series of tweets on Wednesday, noting that federal law and the Supreme Court have used the phrase "illegal aliens."

“Twitter is not allowing us to promote any tweets including the phrase 'illegal alien(s)', citing it as Hateful Content. However, the phrase 'illegal aliens' has been used in both federal law and by the Supreme Court,” it wrote.

Twitter, however, contended that CIS's assumption was wrong. 

Twitter explained that the company has no policies in its organic or paid promotion rules barring the use of the term “illegal alien,” and that its action on the CIS tweets was based on their general content.

The platform also acknowledged that denying paid promotion status to CIS’s tweets was a mistake that has since been reversed. Twitter said CIS can now promote the tweets in question.

Still, CIS representatives told The Hill on Thursday that they believe Twitter denied the organization's ability to promote its tweets based on the language used in the tweets in question. 

A number of conservatives share CIS's views, which favor stricter immigration laws. 

Fox News host Tucker Carlson suggested on Thursday that Twitter’s move is a part of alleged anti-conservative bias in tech companies. President TrumpDonald John TrumpSunday shows preview: Trump sells U.N. reorganizing and Kavanaugh allegations dominate Ex-Trump staffer out at CNN amid “false and defamatory accusations” Democrats opposed to Pelosi lack challenger to topple her MORE and his GOP base have hammered Twitter, Facebook and Google for alleged political bias against Republicans on their platforms.

Google and other tech companies have denied that their algorithms and practices discriminate against conservative speech, though many Republicans remain unconvinced.