Republican groups halt Twitter spending after McConnell account locked

National Republican groups announced Thursday that they would halt spending money to advertise on Twitter after the social media site locked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFury over Trump Syria decision grows Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Trump to slap sanctions on Turkey for Syria offensive | Trump calls on Turkey to broker ceasefire | Pelosi, Graham seek deal on sanctions | Ex-Trump aide testifies in impeachment probe Trump: Let Assad, Russia or China protect the Kurds MORE's (R-Ky.) campaign account this week.

The move from the House and Senate GOP campaign arms, as well as the Republican National Committee (RNC), marks an escalation in the conservative battle against the country's largest tech companies, which they claim routinely censor right-wing voices. Critics have insisted there is little evidence to substantiate those claims beyond individual anecdotes.

"Twitter’s hostile actions toward Leader McConnell’s campaign are outrageous and we will not tolerate it," Jesse Hunt, a spokesman with the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), said in a statement to The Hill. "The NRSC will suspend all spending with Twitter until further notice. We will not spend our resources on a platform that silences conservatives."

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The executive director of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), Parker Hamilton Poling, tweeted that the NRCC would also halt Twitter spending "until they correct their inexcusable targeting of @Team_Mitch." 

"We will stand firmly with our friends against anti-conservative bias," she wrote.

The head of the RNC and the Trump campaign also joined the effort on Thursday, according to RNC's chief of staff. 

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzThe Hill's Morning Report - Lawmakers return to work as Dem candidates set to debate Cruz: 'Of course' it's not appropriate to ask China to investigate Bidens Sunday Show Preview: Trump's allies and administration defend decision on Syria MORE (R-Texas) also said he would "not spend a single penny on @Twitter" until McConnell's campaign account is restored. The Texas Republican also linked to his online petition "to tell Big Tech to stop censoring speech."
 
While the platform itself is free to use, political groups and figures routinely spend money on Twitter to push advertisements. It's unclear how much the GOP groups' decision will ultimately cost the social media platform. The NRSC's Twitter spending this year has been in the low five figures.
 
According to Twitter's ad archives, the NRCC's account has spent over $100,000 on advertising, while McConnell's campaign account spent around $7,500. 
 
Before the boycott, the RNC and Trump campaign had planned to spend $300,000 to $500,000 in the month of August alone.
 
"From unnecessary censorship to suppression of conservative content, Twitter has shown an incredible amount of bias against Republicans," RNC chief of staff Richard Walters said in a statement to The Hill. "Any future ad money we were planning to spend on the site has been halted until Twitter adequately addresses its biases and assures conservatives that we are on a level playing field with the rest of the users on the site.”
 
Twitter on Wednesday locked McConnell's campaign account after it shared a video of a protester ranting outside the senator's home in Kentucky, seeking to highlight the threats McConnell has received in the wake of two mass shootings over the weekend.

Demonstrators have blamed McConnell for holding up gun control legislation in the Senate, and Democrats have ratcheted up pressure on the GOP leader to take action on gun bills.

The video posted by McConnell's campaign featured a leader from Black Lives Matter using profanities and saying she hoped McConnell had "broken his little, raggedy, wrinkled-ass neck."

A Twitter spokesperson said @Team_Mitch was locked because a tweet "violated our violent threats policy, specifically threats involving physical safety."

Twitter's guidelines say that users may not post content on the platform featuring violent threats, and it does not lay out how to deal with context such as posting the video for the purposes of highlighting those threats. The company also says that any glorification of violence violates its policies. 

A McConnell spokesperson told The Hill on Thursday that the campaign account was still locked. There have been no new tweets from @Team_Mitch since Aug. 6.

On Wednesday, McConnell campaign manager Kevin Golden said the campaign had appealed Twitter's decision to lock the account but the company continued to insist they delete the video.

"This is a problem with the speech police in America today," Golden said. "Twitter will allow the words of 'Massacre Mitch' to trend nationally on their platform but locks our account for posting actual threats against us. We appealed and Twitter stood by their decision, saying our account will remain locked until we delete the video."

Twitter has been under intensifying pressure to deal with the deluge of hate speech and harassment on its platform. It has long maintained a policy against violent threats.

—Last updated at 3:23 p.m.