Twitter slammed for 'shadow banning' prominent Republicans

Twitter is taking heat for "shadow banning" certain prominent Republicans, restricting their visibility in search results.

The social media giant came under fire after Republican Party chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, several conservative Republican congressmen, including Rep. Devin Nunes and Andrew Surabian, the spokesman for Donald Trump Jr., failed to appear in Twitter’s auto-populated drop-down search results. The news was first reported by Vice News.

“The notion that social media companies would suppress certain political points of view should concern every American. Twitter owes the public answers to what’s really going on,” tweeted McDaniel.

McDaniel’s account subsequently reappeared in the search results.

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Trump Jr. also took aim at Twitter and its CEO Jack Dorsey. “@Jack it’s time for you to #StopTheBias against conservatives and Trump supporters and fix this once and for all,” he tweeted.

Vice reported that limiting visibility in search results involves the same technique that has been used to diminish the reach of prominent racists on Twitter.

Twitter directed Vice to a May 15 blog post that explained how the platform was clamping down on “troll-like behavior.”

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Searches for Republican Reps. Mark Meadows, Jim Jordan and Matt Gaetz were affected by the same issue. Vice noted that top Democrats were not being similarly “shadow banned.”

Twitter told Fox News that the problem is the result of an algorithmic glitch in the search function that is being fixed.

“To be clear, our behavioral ranking doesn’t make judgements based on political views or the substance of tweets,” tweeted Twitter product lead Kayvon Beykpour. “Some accounts weren’t being auto-suggested even when people were searching for their specific name. Our usage of the behavior signals within search was causing this to happen & making search results seem inaccurate. We’re making a change today that will improve this.”

Dorsey also responded to furor over the search results. “It suffices to say we have a lot more work to do to earn people’s trust on how we work,” he tweeted.

Social media giants such as Twitter and Facebook are under increasing scrutiny, particularly in the wake of a government probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Twitter, for example, recently purged a slew of suspicious accounts from its platform.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers