UPDATE (2/26, 5:42pm ET):
Considering the nature of Twitter's algorithm, it may just be a coincidence that Twitter suspended activist account @GuerrillaDems, at the same time that its massively popular hashtags #WhichHillary & #WhichHillaryCensored were suddenly absent from many users’ trending lists. Twitter now says that the suspension of @GuerrillaDems was a mistake.
It is entirely natural, and important, for users to be suspicious here. We don’t know whether it was intentional removal, or algorithmic coincidence. However, it is a fact that this past Sunday, Clinton held a political event headlined by Twitter CEO Omid Kordestani. It is also a fact that Clinton’s staff has exerted pressure on members of the media in the past, using its “muscular” influence to promote a certain narrative at the Atlantic, and suggesting experts to rebut Julian Assange during his interview with 60 Minutes. These relationships tend to be mutually beneficial — a journalist gets a scoop — a large media outlet gets favorable treatment by regulatory agencies — in exchange for promoting a certain narrative. It is also no secret that the Clintons have earned $153 million over the past 15 years in legal political graft, much of that coming from the same companies they helped deregulate in the 1990’s. If you would like to know why our media giants are grateful to the Clintons, read up on the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
That said — we don’t know what happened here, and we may never know. The suspension of @GuerrillaDems yesterday & the removal of these hashtags from trending lists could very well be a coincidence, and there is no definitive proof to dispute that. Considering the enormous power of tech companies like Twitter & Google to shape political dialogue across the world, however, I would argue that it is better to be diligent, and to not assume social media companies will always take a ‘hands off’ approach to content.
Original post, in full:
Twitter wants to control what political messages you see.
In a truly egregious move yesterday, Twitter suspended the account responsible for #WhichHillary, activists @GuerrillaDems. Twitter also removed #WhichHillary from trending status — odd, considering the hashtag received more than 450,000 tweets in less than 24 hours.
This isn’t the first time Twitter has exerted political control like this. It is also a demonstrable conflict of interest, in light of Twitter Executive Chairman Omid Kordestani’s Sunday, 2/28 fundraiser with Clinton. [Ed note: the fundraiser was 2/21].
It is no secret that media execs possess enormous editorial influence. Rupert Murdoch has proven the potent political power of media ownership, using Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, and his media empire to propagate conservative ideology. Together with News Corp, five other companies control 90% of American media, arguably promoting their own political agendas as well. [Check out Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting’s fantastic look at media healthcare coverage.]
Social media was supposed to provide a counterweight. It is awful & disappointing to see Twitter censor its users for political reasons alone.
On Wednesday, Ashley Williams and a fellow protester paid $500 each to enter a closed-door Clinton fundraiser, and asked Sec. Clinton to answer for her “Superpredator” remarks made in 1996, as well as her staunch advocacy of the 1994 Crime Bill:
Clinton: “They are not just gangs of kids anymore. They are often the kinds of kids that are called ‘super-predators.’ No conscience, no empathy. We can talk about why they ended up that way, but first we have to bring them to heel.”
[It should be clear to anyone why this language is offensive. A great follow-up interview with Ashley Williams is included at the end of this diary, Sec. Clinton’s official statement can be found here.]
To help spread Black Lives Matter’s message of protest, twitter activists coordinated to get #WhichHillary trending. Users responded quickly. Through 450,000+ posts referencing #WhichHillary, Twitter users illustrated how they have felt betrayed by Sec. Clinton’s positions on crime, LGBT rights, healthcare, education, and other key issues. Their argument: Clinton’s public positions have largely been determined by political expediency, and may in fact differ from her core, private beliefs. [Admittedly, I myself am not a Clinton supporter, and have not yet forgiven her for truly offensive remarks attacking same-sex marriage, among other concerns.]
Twitter removed #WhichHillary from “Trending” status near the height of its popularity. It is unacceptable for Twitter to pick & choose which political opinions should be amplified, or silenced. Except in cases of hate speech & personal threats — Twitter should never express editorial control over its trending list — regardless of the political party or candidate affected.
Twitter’s pattern of stifling political speech is highly troubling, and should be carefully monitored & challenged by users going forward.
If you would like to know more about why we have rampant media cross-ownership, check out the Clinton administration’s Telecommunications Act of 1996.
Ashley has a terrific interview up explaining their motivation behind the protest: