Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical left and Islamic terrorism.
How do you know you’ve been shadowbanned? You may be tweeting, but you’re no longer being heard. You wonder if maybe people just aren’t interested in what you have to say.
But they might be interested. Twitter just isn’t interested in letting them read your messages.
Shadowbanning is the censorship that social media companies do in the shadows. It’s cowardly and dishonest. And it’s how the big firms get away with covertly censoring conservatives.
"The idea of a shadow ban is that you ban someone but they don’t know they’ve been banned, because they keep posting and no one sees their content," Abhinav Vadrevu, a former Twitter employee, explains in Project Veritas' undercover investigation of the company.
“They just think that no one is engaging with their content, when in reality, no one is seeing it.”
Shadowbanning is the perfect metaphor for the big lie of social media. The big companies claim to empower you while they actually take away your voice. And they do it without you realizing it.
Or as Olinda Hassan, Twitter’s Policy Manager for Trust and Safety put it, “It's something we're working on where we're trying to get the s___ people not to show up.”
Social media has duplicated the media’s hypocritical claims of transparency and fairness. Facebook and Twitter claim that they aren’t media companies. But they act just like them.
And with these videos, James O’Keefe pivots from hammering the media to exposing social media.
"Twitter was probably about 90% anti-Trump, maybe 99%," Mo Norai, a former Content Review Agent, revealed. And censorship was subjective. Anti-Trump employees felt free to censor pro-Trump messages. Twitter doesn’t run on definitive rules, but on unwritten codes and biases.
And Twitter’s unwritten code was to censor the right and favor the left.
As the James Damore lawsuit against Google revealed, this monolithic mindset is achieved at big tech firms by a strategy of intimidation and scapegoating. The shutdown of conservatives at companies like Google and Twitter begins on the inside, and then when control has been consolidated, goes outside.
There’s a direct line between Google’s suppression of conservatives within the company and its smears of conservative sites. The same tactics that were used to smear conservative employees at Google are being aimed at conservative sites by Google. Shadowbanning is just a high tech version of shunning. And there’s a direct line between shunning conservatives at work and working to shun conservative users.
On the video, Norai reveals that there were, “A lot of unwritten rules.”
"We're in San Francisco, we're in California, a very liberal, a very blue state,” he explained. "As a company, you can't really say because it would make you look bad, but behind closed doors are a lot of rules."
The unwritten rules, like shadowbanning, are how the censorship sausage gets made. The big online companies that control search and social media pretend to be one thing, but are really another. The unwritten rules are part of a secret world that outsiders rarely get to hear about. Just as the Damore lawsuit exposed the hidden corporate culture at Google, the Veritas videos reveal the truth about Twitter.
Pranay Singh, a Twitter engineer admitted, that accounts are suspended sometimes for political reasons.
"Do you get requests from the government to take down celebrities?" a Project Veritas journalist asks.
"Oh, all the f____ time," he replies.
The conversation also reveals just how out of touch the tech industry is with the rest of the country.
"Just go to a random (Trump) tweet and just look at the followers. They'll all be like, guns, God, 'Merica, like, and with the American flag, and, like, the cross,” Singh spouts. “Like, who says that? Who talks like that? It’s for sure a bot.”
Algorithms are used to flag and delete accounts that Twitter employees think are bots. And Twitter employees live in such a leftist bubble that they think that patriots don’t really exist.
"You look for Trump, or America, or any of, like, five thousand, like, keywords to describe a redneck,” the engineer explains. A majority of the algorithms, he admits, target Republicans.
"So you would mostly just get rid of Conservatives?" he's asked.
"Yeah," he replies.
Tech companies start out by purging conservatives from their ranks. And then they set out to purge all conservatives. When a corporate culture has no room for intellectual diversity, then its staffers start to believer that people who think differently don’t even exist. Or shouldn’t be allowed to exist.
That’s the state of mind that totalitarian societies induce. And the Project Veritas videos reveal how well Twitter has succeeded. The 1% of conservatives at Twitter have learned to keep their mouths shut. Censorship at Twitter follows the political biases of the overwhelming majority of employees.
And while Twitter is a private company, it also has a great deal of power over the national discourse.
President Trump has boosted Twitter’s influence, but as the Project Veritas videos reveal, the company and its employees are deeply hostile to him. The company hasn’t found the courage to delete Trump’s account, but its employees clearly fantasize about the idea, one even went so far as to try and do it, and they eagerly shadowban, censor, harass and delete the Twitter accounts of Trump supporters.
Some of the Twitter censorship measures revealed by the Project Veritas videos were occasioned by the media’s claims that a ‘fake news’ conspiracy resulted in Trump’s victory. But others are purely a matter of bias. And between the push to purge social media of ‘fake news’ and political biases, conservatives are an endangered species on social media. Much as they’re all but extinct in the mainstream media.
But social media was meant to be different. Instead of being told what to read, watch and hear, you would set your own agenda. Anyone could create and share content. The media was done. Instead of having your morning or afternoon defined by CBS or CNN, it would be built around your interests.
And that was a lie.
The internet makes that possible. But the big search and social companies decide what you see. The same way that Netflix pushes Black Mirror: Twitter, Facebook and Google push their results. But the old mainstream media companies never tried to fool anyone into thinking they were democracies. You were going to watch what CNN wanted you to. And that was that.
Social media pretends to be a viral democracy. But its corporate overlords run it like a tyranny. Twitter, Facebook and Google are built on lie. They aren’t meritocracies of content. The game is rigged. And these videos pull back the curtain to show some of the men and women doing the rigging.
Have you been shadowbanned yet? Give it time and the people in this video will get around to it.