Twitter 'Shadow Bans' Affect Some Conservative Leaders but Not Their Liberal Counterparts

Devin Nunes gets the Richard Spencer treatment.


Alexey Novikov/

Twitter appears to be "shadow-banning" several conservative leaders. In other words, their accounts don't show up when users search for them in the dropdown bar.

Those affected include Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel and Donald Trump Jr. spokesperson Andrew Surabian, as well as the verified accounts of Reps. Mark Meadows (R–N.C.), Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), and Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), according to Vice News. Twitter users can still find their profiles with a manual search, but the accounts don't auto-populate in the search bar.

Something similar has happened to white nationalists such as Richard Spencer and right-wing trolls such as Mike Cernovich, Gizmodo reports. But other controversial figures on the far right, including Infowars founder Alex Jones and Unite the Right organizer Jason Kessler, still show up in the dropdown search bar.

There does not appear to be a comparable crackdown on the left, says Vice:

McDaniel's counterpart, Democratic Party chair Tom Perez, and liberal members of Congress—including Reps. Maxine Waters, Joe Kennedy III, Keith Ellison, and Mark Pocan—all continue to appear in drop-down search results. Not a single member of the 78-person Progressive Caucus faces the same in Twitter's search.

So why are prominent Republicans being shadow-banned while their Democratic counterparts aren't? It's not exactly clear, and Twitter doesn't seem willing to provide an answer. "We are aware that some accounts are not automatically populating in our search box and shipping a change to address this," a spokesperson for the social media company tells Vice, adding that "our technology is based on account *behavior* not the content of Tweets."

Twitter did announce in May that it planned to address the issue of trolls in a way that ensures that "people contributing to the healthy conversation will be more visible in conversations and search." This may be why Spencer and Cernovich don't autopopulate in the search bar anymore, but it doesn't explain what's happened to McDaniel, Surabian, and various Republican legislators.

Conservatives have long accused Twitter and Facebook of censoring their viewpoints. In May, McDaniel and Brad Parscale, who's running President Donald Trump's 2020 campaign, sent a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg asking them to look into their companies' alleged anti-conservative bias.

Both companies say they're taking the accusations seriously, but many conservatives don't seem to be placated. "This type of opaque behavior by social media companies is exactly why conservatives are speaking out and demanding more transparency and accountability," House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) tells Vice. "The bias has to stop."