U.S. President Donald Trump took to Twitter earlier today to threaten the very same microblogging platform, accusing it of a “discriminatory and illegal practice” of censoring accounts of certain high-profile Republicans. Vice News on Wednesday reported Twitter “shadow-banned” select GOP members, i.e. limited their reach on the service by reducing the visibility of their tweets in its search results. President Trump said the government will “look into” the allegations, without elaborating on the matter. Twitter Product Lead Kayvon Beykpour dismissed the accusations, having only acknowledged that it’s possible the reach of select accounts was limited by the behavioral ranking mechanisms the company implemented in May in an effort to improve the quality of conversations led on its platform by combating digressions.
The functionality itself is powered by machine learning and is far from the only factor that affects tweet and profile rankings, according to the official, with the main implication of his remarks being that Twitter engaged in no systematic censorship based on political beliefs. While the firm’s ranking mechanism is continuously being optimized and improved, it’s presently unclear whether the San Francisco, California-based social media giant will be manually addressing the cases brought up by Vice News. Some of the supposedly censored account names previously weren’t showing up as automatic suggestions even if users specifically searched for them which should have already been broadly addressed on Wednesday after Twitter tweaked some of its behavioral algorithms, Mr. Beykpour.
President Trump didn’t explain how limiting the reach of any particular demographic on Twitter may be illegal, with the social media network being run by a private company which isn’t obligated to guarantee First Amendment rights to its users, even though some major names in the industry like Reddit are now choosing to do so, having consequently stirred some public controversy. President Trump’s threat to Twitter comes merely a day after he harshly criticized the FCC over its unwillingness to approve the merger of cable TV juggernauts Sinclair Broadcast Group and Tribune, referring to the move as an unfair push against the creation of a more prominent conservative media voice in the U.S.
Twitter “SHADOW BANNING” prominent Republicans. Not good. We will look into this discriminatory and illegal practice at once! Many complaints.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2018
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 https://t.co/Zk4DL7Q3hq
— Kayvon Beykpour (@kayvz) July 25, 2018