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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

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
Updated 2 hours ago - Economy & Business

Our make-believe economy is here to stay

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The Federal Reserve and global central banks are remaking the world's economy in an effort to save it, but have created something of a monster.

Why it matters: The Fed-driven economy relies on the creation of trillions of dollars — literally out of thin air — that are used to purchase bonds and push money into a pandemic-ravaged economy that has long been dependent on free cash and is only growing more addicted.

Mike Allen, author of AM
3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Why Trump may still fire Barr

Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Attorney General Barr may be fired or resign, as President Trump seethes about Barr's statement this week that no widespread voter fraud has been found.

Behind the scenes: A source familiar with the president's thinking tells Axios that Trump remains frustrated with what he sees as the lack of a vigorous investigation into his election conspiracy theories.

Mike Allen, author of AM
3 hours ago - World

Scoop: Trump's spy chief plans dire China warning

Xi Jinping reviews troops during a military parade in Beijing last year. Photo: Thomas Peter/Reuters

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe on Thursday will publicly warn that China's threat to the U.S. is a defining issue of our time, a senior administration official tells Axios.

Why it matters: It's exceedingly rare for the head of the U.S. intelligence community to make public accusations about a rival power.