Is Twitter censoring conservatives?
The account of right-wing talking head Dana Loesch's husband is briefly suspended, spurring conservatives like Michelle Malkin to allege a left-wing conspiracy
Conservative Twitter users unleashed their fury Sunday night, after the social networking giant suspended the account of Chris Loesch, the husband of right-wing Breitbart.com and CNN pundit Dana Loesch. His account was disabled following a heated exchanged with some liberal Twitter users — proof, he believes, of left-leaning Tweeps gaming the site's policies to censor conservatives. Does his theory hold water? Here, a brief guide:
What started this Twitter spat?Chris Loesch and his wife were engaging in a war of words with several antagonistic Twitter users on Sunday night after an alarming, vile tweet was directed at Dana. (The tweet, from a little-known freelancer, read, "@dloesch is one of the few women on this planet that if I learned she'd been brutally raped and murdered I wouldn't shed a tear.") Soon after the exchange, Chris Loesch was suspended. Fellow conservatives like Ben Howe, Jerome Hudson, and Michelle Malkin promptly began sending tweets with the "#FreeChrisLoesch" hashtag. Soon, the hashtag was among the top 10 trending topics in the U.S. His account was re-instated on Monday afternoon, according to BuzzFeed.
Why was Loesch suspended? Many conservatives believe that liberals, fed up with being called out for their bullying, banded together to report Loesch's Twitter account as spam, says Ed Morrissey at Hot Air. Twitter has a self-policing "Block & Report Spam" function, which suspends accounts that receive complaints from other users. Loesch claims to have "stumbled upon a few tweets between the liberals I was debating" that discussed their plan to have him blocked. "This is clearly a tactic being used by the Left, and Twitter is either ignorant or allowing it to occur."
Could that really have happened?Loesch's is a dubious theory, conservative columnist Brady Cremeens says. Why would liberal Twitter users target him instead of his wife, who has a much higher public profile by virtue of her position on CNN? Regardless, this isn't the first accusation of social media's politicization. Last week, conservatives complained when Free Market America's Twitter account was briefly suspended, while a Facebook user who routinely posts to pro-Democratic Facebook pages claims that conservative users had him banned from the site by flagging his left-leaning posts as spam.
Why is this a big deal?If Twitter really does use an algorithm that allows "user accounts to be reactively suspended according to malicious whims," says Anneke E. Green at The Washington Times, "that's a threat to free speech for everyone — regardless of individual political views." Sites like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube are increasingly vital parts of the national political conversation and "possess the power to determine what political speech is and is not acceptable for their huge audiences," says BuzzFeed. It may be time to investigate how fairly and transparently they "wield their clout."