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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

Updated 8 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: Trump, Melania received COVID vaccine at White House in January — CDC director warns "now is not the time" to lift COVID restrictions.
  2. Vaccine: J&J CEO "absolutely" confident in vaccine distribution goals Most states aren't prioritizing prisons for COVID vaccines — Vaccine hesitancy is shrinking.
  3. Economy: Apple says all U.S. stores open for the first time since start of pandemic — What's really going on with the labor market.
  4. Sports: Poll weighs impact of athlete vaccination.
  5. World: Italy tightens restrictions as experts warn of growing prevalence of variants — PA announces new COVID restrictions as cases surge.
  6. Local: Colorado sets timeline for return to normalcy.
Updated 11 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Trump received COVID vaccine at White House in January

Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images

Former President Trump and former first lady Melania Trump were both vaccinated at the White House in January, a Trump adviser tells Axios.

Why it matters: Trump declared at CPAC on Sunday that "everybody" should get the coronavirus vaccine — the first time he's encouraged his supporters, who have been more skeptical of getting vaccinated, to do so.

Biden administration seeks to allow separated migrant families to reunite in U.S.

Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas announced Monday that the Biden administration will explore "lawful pathways" to allow migrant families separated under the Trump administration to reunite in the U.S.

Why it matters: Biden has pledged to reunite the hundreds of families still separated as a result of the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy, and signed an executive order last month creating a family separation task force chaired by Mayorkas.