by Peter Hasson and Joe Simonson
– Twitter’s recent algorithm change suppressed, or “shadow-banned,” prominent conservatives, including Republican Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, a new report found.
– Gaetz is considering filing a Federal Election Commission (FEC) complaint against Twitter, he told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
– Gaetz said his Twitter account’s growth slowed immediately after Twitter’s recent algorithm change.
Twitter acknowledged the “inaccurate” search results but said it was unrelated to politics.
Rep. Matt Gaetz is considering filing a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) over Twitter’s alleged suppression of his account, the Florida Republican told The Daily Caller News Foundation on Wednesday.
Gaetz was one of several prominent conservatives, including members of Congress and the chair of the Republican National Committee, whose accounts Twitter suppressed by making it harder to find in the site’s search function, a Vice News investigation published Wednesday found.
“Democrats are not being ‘shadow banned’ in the same way,” the report concluded, noting: “Not a single member of the 78-person Progressive Caucus faces the same situation in Twitter’s search.”
Twitter announced in May that the company would rely on “behavior-based signals” to boost the visibility of some accounts and to suppress the visibility of others, as part of a step “to improve the health of the public conversation on Twitter.”
Those changes appear to have had the effect of suppressing some prominent conservatives on the platform, including Gaetz, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus.
“The evidence is piling up that I am being treated differently on Twitter than people on the political Left and I don’t like that because I enjoy the Twitter platform, I enjoy the engagement, I enjoy the candor,” Gaetz told TheDCNF.
“I would think that having won my election with 69 percent of the vote to serve in the Congress that the marketplace of ideas could accommodate my views,” he continued.
“I am contemplating a complaint with the FEC, because if my political opponents have better access to the Twitter platform than I do, that’s no different than a private company giving my political opponents access to a billboard or television time or radio time,” Gaetz said. “That wouldn’t be equal.”
“So I believe that Twitter may have illegally donated to the campaigns of my opponents by prejudicing against my content,” he said.
Gaetz saw his growing Twitter account suddenly lost steam immediately after the algorithm change, he told TheDCNF.
Twitter representatives “keep calling and emailing my office saying that they’re not shadow-banning me, so I guess I can either believe them or my lying eyes,” Gaetz said.
“I’m not an algorithm expert. I can tell you that my office maintains very detailed records of our Twitter engagement, and following the change in their protocols in May, my growth was cut by about 75 percent,” he added.
Six weeks of social media data provided by Gaetz’s office to TheDCNF confirms that his account added followers at a much slower rate in the weeks immediately following the algorithm change.
Gaetz’s staffers monitor his social media engagement for Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and track the results in three-week blocks.
In the three weeks from April 27-May 18, Gaetz’s account added 3,696 Twitter followers, the data shows. Twitter announced the algorithm change near the end of that three-week period, on May 15.
Gaetz’s account added just 1,072 followers in the next three weeks from May 18-June 8 — a drop-off of 71 percent. His Facebook and Instagram accounts did not see similar drop-offs in new users, the data shows.
Twitter’s press office did not return multiple requests for comment from TheDCNF.
Twitter product lead Kayvon Beykpour on Wednesday said the accounts were hidden in error and blamed the “usage of the behavior signals within search” for the fact that conservatives weren’t showing up in search suggestions.
He insisted the suppression was not related to politics.
“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,” Beykpour wrote in a series of tweets.
“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 and making search results seem inaccurate,” he said. “We’re making a change today that will improve this.”
Beykpour did not explain why the Vice investigation found that prominent conservative accounts were suppressed more than liberal accounts.
Several members of legacy media have garnered attention by publicly scaling back their use of Twitter due to its toxicity, adding pressure on Twitter executives to further regulate speech on the platform.
Most notably, New York Times White House correspondent Maggie Haberman published a column in the paper on July 20 explaining why she will spend significantly less time on the social media platform.
“The viciousness, toxic partisan anger, intellectual dishonesty, motive-questioning and sexism are at all-time highs, with no end in sight,” Haberman wrote. “It is a place where people who are understandably upset about any number of things go to feed their anger, where the underbelly of free speech is at its most bilious.”
Her column caught the eye of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who responded by pledging to “focus more on the conversational dynamics within Twitter.”
Dorsey shared an article in April saying that domestic politics have gotten so terrible in the United States that there “was no bipartisan way forward” and that the country is on the cusp of a “second civil war.”
“In this current period of American politics, at this juncture in our history, there’s no way that a bipartisan path provides the way forward,” the authors wrote.
As TheDCNF noted at the time, Dorsey’s endorsement of the article raised the question of how he and his company can maintain neutrality in what he believes is such a dire situation.
Dorsey eventually backtracked a few days later, saying “I should have provided more context why I thought it was a “great read.’”
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