The Big Insight: Twitter has targeted conservatives with its increasingly aggressive censorship policies.
Over the past few years, Twitter — once a nearly unfettered place of free expression online — has become more aggressive in censoring political messages. This censorship has often seemed to be arbitrary, although on many occasions the platform has appeared to target people on the right. Both Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey and new buyer Elon Musk have deemed Twitter’s practices as antithetical to the microblogging service’s mission. Many conservatives are now distrustful of the platform.
Here are five facts on Twitter censorship and partisanship.
1. Twitter rarely suspended individuals before 2017.
Until a few years ago, most accounts suspended by Twitter were linked to ISIS and other terrorist organizations. U.S. suspensions were limited mainly to white supremacist groups and others who advocated violence.
In October 2017, Twitter created a new “Calendar of Our Safety Work” that expanded rules for removing accounts. The vast majority of high-profile suspensions in the last few years have been people associated with conservative politics and Donald Trump — such as political consultant Roger Stone, who was permanently banned that month for criticizing CNN’s Don Lemon.
During the lead-up to and immediate aftermath of the 2020 presidential election, those suspended from Twitter included Steve Bannon, commentator Dan Bongino, Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne, former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk, Kanye West, and Trump attorney Lin Wood.
All this despite the fact that Dorsey said last month, “I don’t believe any permanent ban (with the exception of illegal activity) is right, or should be possible.”
2. In 2018, Jack Dorsey said the company’s conservative employees did not feel they could express their opinions.
Dorsey said in an interview, “We have a lot of conservative-leaning folks in the company as well, and to be honest, they don’t feel safe to express their opinions at the company. They do feel silenced by just the general swirl of what they perceive to be the broader percentage of leanings within the company, and I don’t think that’s fair or right.”
3. Four sitting federal officials — all Republicans — have been suspended or banned from Twitter.
In addition to Donald Trump, Reps. Jim Banks (R-IN), Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), and Barry Moore (R-AL) have faced disciplinary action by Twitter. Ex-Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA) also faced a suspension in 2021. Last month, the Pennsylvania House Republican Caucus account was suspended for several hours for undisclosed reasons.
4. Twitter removed a New York Post report about Hunter Biden’s laptop less than a month before the 2020 election.
In October 2020, Twitter not only removed the front-page report from the nation’s fourth-largest newspaper, but also banned all users from being able to share the article. Twitter also temporarily suspended The Post’s Twitter account. At the time, the company said the report violated its rules because it contained private information.
Late last month, Musk said, “Suspending the Twitter account of a major news organization for publishing a truthful story was obviously incredibly inappropriate.”
5. An early May poll found that 93% of Republicans think Musk will make Twitter better.
The iCitizen-Rochester Institute of Technology survey found that 52% of all respondents think Musk will improve Twitter. Three out of five independents agreed with that sentiment — but just over 10% of Democrats said so.
The Los Angeles Times says Republicans “were elated by the news Elon Musk was buying Twitter,” while Democrats “were markedly unenthused.”
No Labels is an organization of Democrats, Republicans, and independents working to bring American leaders together to solve problems.