President Donald Trump on Thursday accused Twitter of breaking the law by limiting the visibility of some Republican users, a practice known as "shadow banning."
Conservatives have complained about shadow banning and other such discriminatory practices on Twitter and other platforms, and Wednesday Vice News published an article about Twitter specifically. The report found Republicans such as RNC Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel and Donald Trump Jr. no longer appear in Twitter’s auto-populated search box, and Trump said his administration will look into responding.
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"Twitter ‘shadow banning’ prominent Republicans. Not good," Trump tweeted. "We will look into this discriminatory and illegal practice at once! Many complaints."
Twitter "SHADOW BANNING" prominent Republicans. Not good. We will look into this discriminatory and illegal practice at once! Many complaints.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2018
It is not clear what laws Trump may be referring to, as Twitter is a private company that controls how its platform works.
Shadow banning is a way of restricting a users’ reach by preventing other users from finding them via Twitter’s search bar. The method has been used in the past to limit visibility of racist users, for instance, but Vice found no evidence of any progressive public figures being shadow banned as McDaniel and others are.
Limiting the reach of users based on political ideology would violate Twitter public policy chief Nick Pickles’ stated goal "to serve the conversation, not to make value judgments on personal beliefs."
A Twitter spokesperson gave CNBC a general statement on the issue but did not comment directly on Trump’s tweet.
"As we have said before, we do not ‘shadowban.' We are aware that some accounts are not automatically populating in our search box, and shipping a change to address this," the spokesperson said. "The profiles, Tweets and discussions about these accounts do appear when you search for them. To be clear, our behavioral ranking doesn't make judgments based on political views or the substance of Tweets."
Twitter’s premarket losses increased by 1 percent after Trump’s tweet, according to CNBC.
Rival Facebook has also faced charges of conservative censorship in recent years.