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April 6, 2022

The Specter of Shadowbanning

The threat posed by the stealthy suppression of conservative media on social media cannot be overstated.

When it comes to free speech, the Right is in a pitched battle with Big Tech. Most of the attention has gone to deplatforming, a phenomenon that has expanded in scope since Alex Jones of InfoWars lost most of his social media access back in 2018. Jones was the low-hanging fruit — a bomb-thrower and conspiracy theorist whose dismissal didn’t cause a lot of consternation outside his following. But in the wake of the 2020 election and the rise of Joe Biden’s regime, we saw several others deplatformed, most notably then-President Donald Trump.

There’s no doubt deplatforming is newsworthy, but the much more subtle and insidious action being taken by the Big Tech giants is shadowbanning. Way back in 2018, about the time Jones was being shown the door by social media, The Economist explained the practice:

The currency of social networks is attention. A shadowban, in theory, curtails the ways in which that attention may be earned without blocking a user’s ability to post new messages or carry out typical actions on a network. Shadowbanned users are not told that they have been affected. They can continue to post messages, add new followers and comment on or reply to other posts. But their messages may not appear in the feed, their replies may be suppressed and they may not show up in searches for their usernames. The only hint that such a thing is happening would be a dip in likes, favorites or retweets — or an ally alerting them to their disappearance.

Over the weekend, we were alerted to another good example of how Big Tech is shafting the Right. The Federalist’s Sean Davis asked, ironically, in a tweet: “How oppressive and obvious is Twitter’s shadowbanning of conservatives? The same message on Truth Social got 2x the engagement as it did on Twitter despite an audience that’s 95% smaller (17k followers on Truth vs 320k on Twitter while being shadowbanned).”

Granted, there’s probably some amount of exaggeration there: The base of Twitter readers is much further to the left politically than the Donald Trump-led Truth Social base, so the Twitterverse may be much less likely to engage a post from The Federalist, which is a right-of-center publication. Even so, there’s still a vast disparity that can’t be explained away in any other manner than Twitter’s restriction on distribution, and this is just one of several examples.

Need more proof? Just ask Just the News’s John Solomon, who detailed even more stories that have had wildly disparate interaction from the various social media sites. While Truth Social is growing quickly, it has less than 5% of Twitter’s current reach in the U.S., making the difference in engagement even more apparent.

Here at The Patriot Post, it’s a fact of life that our social media reach isn’t what it used to be. With your help, though, we’ve found workarounds to keep our readership numbers strong. But as our publisher, Mark Alexander, noted last July: “There is NO recourse for the violation of our civil rights because Republicans in Congress are too busy focusing on ‘cancel culture,’ which is just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Cancel culture is a much easier political soundbite, but it is only a minuscule part of the real First Amendment threat. The deliberate systemic suppression of conservative websites on social media platforms would make the old Soviet commissars of truth proud. Until Republicans get beyond the cancel culture soundbites, this suppression will continue unabated.”

Some Republicans in the several states are attempting to address the problem with legislation, including those in Tennessee. Thus far, though, state-level attempts in Florida and Texas have been stymied in federal court by NetChoice, an industry and lobbying group suing on behalf of its membership, which includes tech heavyweights Facebook and Twitter, among others.

Due to the national implications and reach of social media, though, it’s an issue that likely needs a federal solution — a solution that won’t come quickly because the powerful Big Tech lobby is obviously not afraid to use the courts to thwart any effort at reform. And because Democrats clearly have no interest in allowing Republicans to speak freely on social media.

Here we should note that while The Patriot Post is being shadowbanned, that doesn’t necessarily mean our readers are. So please share our content within your social network whenever you see something you like. We don’t care if it’s Facebook, Twitter, Gab, Parler, Truth Social, or elsewhere — just spread the word and help us beat Big Tech at its own game. There’s still power in numbers.

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