Jul 26, 2018

Why Trump targeted Twitter

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

President Trump is now threatening to investigate Twitter for allegedly silencing conservatives, tweeting today:

"Twitter 'SHADOW BANNING' prominent Republicans. Not good. We will look into this discriminatory and illegal practice at once! Many complaints."

The big picture: High-profile conservatives have complained for years that their videos are made ineligible for advertising on YouTube, their accounts or tweets are minimized on Twitter, and their posts are removed on Facebook.

Trump was likely trigged by coverage around a viral article from VICE News, which asserted Trump Jr.'s spokesperson and RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel had been "shadow banned" from the platform.

What's happening: People need to start by understanding that this is all about auto-fill in the search box, Axios tech editor Scott Rosenberg says.

  • "Shadow banning" is as badly misleading a phrase as the "Hillary Clinton acid washed her server" line (all based on the name of a software utility called "bleachbit").
  • Algorithms have played a role in deciding who sees what and when since Twitter went away from a purely chronological timeline.
  • Everyone is either shadow lifted or shadow demoted (no one is really being fully shadow banned).

Reality check: New York Magazine's Brian Feldman reported that Twitter's technique is similar to something Facebook has done previously.

  • Facebook's best attempt to "dispel information from places like InfoWars...was to secretly minimize their distribution in the site's News Feed."

What Twitter's saying: "To be clear, our behavioral ranking doesn't make judgments based on political views or the substance of Tweets."

  • The other side, as the original Vice article noted: "Democratic Party chair Tom Perez, and liberal members of Congress ... all [continued] to appear in drop-down search results. Not a single member of the 78-person Progressive Caucus [faced] the same situation in Twitter’s search."

The bottom line: Among Americans, 72% believe social media intentionally censors political viewpoints they find “objectionable.”

  • That includes 62% of Democrats and a whopping 86% of Republicans.

What's next: Twitter, whose shares fell nearly 3% today, reports earnings tomorrow.

Go deeper

Netanyahu says July 1 deadline for West Bank annexation won't change

Photo: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday at a Likud Party faction meeting at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, that his July 1 deadline for starting the process of annexation in the West Bank will not change, according to people in attendance.

Why it matters: The White House and the State Department have stressed over the last few weeks that the deadline set by Netanyahu is "not sacred" to the Trump administration — and that any discussion of annexation needs to be in the context of renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Trump threatens to move Republican convention from North Carolina if capacity reduced

President Trump on stage during the 2016 Republican National Convention in Ohio. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images

President Trump threatened in a series of Monday tweets to move this summer's Republican National Convention from Charlotte if North Carolina's Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, doesn't allow the event to be held at full capacity.

The state of play: Mandy Cohen, the state's health and human services secretary, said last week that the GOP should "plan for the worst" as mass gatherings will be a "very big challenge" if the number of coronavirus cases in the state continues to increase, per NPR.

The wreckage of summer

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

We usually think of Memorial Day as the start of the summer, with all of the fun and relaxation that goes with it — but this one is just going to remind us of all of the plans that have been ruined by the coronavirus.

Why it matters: If you thought it was stressful to be locked down during the spring, just wait until everyone realizes that all the traditional summer activities we've been looking forward to are largely off-limits this year.