Conservatives, especially anti-establishment conservatives, have been complaining for months about Twitter’s political biases. Now there is mounting suspicion among anti-establishment progressives that Twitter is no longer a politically neutral platform.
Supporters of Bernie Sanders allege that the company removed #WhichHillary, a hub for critical tweets about Hillary Clinton, from their list of trending topics. In response to the alleged censorship, another hashtag, #WhichHillaryCensored, was created — but despite a high level of activity, this hashtag also failed to trend.
— Ashleigh (@AshleighBullock) February 26, 2016
According to analysis by Vocativ, both were considerably more active than other hashtags that were allowed to trend.
A Vocativ analysis found that on Friday, from 12: a.m. to 2 p.m. E.T., #WhichHillary was used 68,159 times on Twitter. #WhichHillaryCensored, meanwhile, was found on 22,176 tweets. The figures are made interesting by the fact that at the same time, #FlashbackFriday was on Twitter’s trends list at the same time, while only counting 11,919 tweets.
However, Vocative also noted that “complex algorithms,” not hashtag activity, determine what trends on Twitter. Like many other features of the notoriously opaque social media platform, the precise inner workings of Twitter’s trending function are difficult to ascertain.
The suspicions of Sanders supporters were also fuelled by the apparently accidental suspension of “Guerilla Socialists,” one of the leading tweeters on the #WhichHillary hashtag. After having his account locked for automated behaviour that resembled spamming, Twitter unlocked his account and sent the account owner an apologetic email.
— Guerrilla Socialists (@GuerrillaDems) February 26, 2016
Breitbart Tech previously revealed that Twitter operates a secret “shadowbanning” system, where some accounts are promoted at the expense of others, regardless of their popularity with users. We’ve also closely followed the platform’s unfolding war against conservative users, and have predicted that Twitter will use its influence to interfere with the general election.
There wasn’t much noise from Sanders supporters when we first started reporting on it — they’re much louder now they fear that Twitter’s biases affect them too.