One of my colleagues at American Greatness, Helen Lamm, joined Twitter last week. Within minutes and after a grand total of one tweet, she was locked out of her account and had been suspended. With no explanation.
Even hours after her account was restored, users continued experienced glitches when they tried to reach her profile.
Is it possible that her suspension was a purely technical glitch that had nothing to do with her political views and the fact that she was following predominantly conservative accounts? Perhaps. But it’s getting increasingly hard to believe that these glitches are not political.
Few on the right have escaped censorship from the big tech companies — often for innocuous content.
There are plenty of anecdotes. The Daily Caller’s editor in chief was locked out of his Twitter account for tweeting “learn to code.” YouTube has demonetized conservative commentators and forced them to find other sources of revenue. Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz and several other Republican politicians have been hidden from Twitter’s search. And it keeps happening.
Just last Saturday morning, Twitter suspended the account for the pro-life film “Unplanned” that had opened in theaters on Friday. Even after the account was reinstated later that day, users still reported having difficulties following the account.
Large tech companies dismiss these individual stories as simple “errors” on their part or growing pains from dealing with vast amounts of content. They cast them as isolated incidents and pledge to work with conservatives to rectify these mistakes quickly. And many conservatives in Washington have given these platforms the benefit of the doubt that they are working in good faith to address difficult policy considerations and technical implementations at scale.
Several months ago, I spoke to a conservative lobbyist that Twitter had hired to bolster their public policy bone fides. He gave me the same lines that all big tech companies give to conservatives. He cited the sheer volume of content that Twitter deals with each day, the difficulty in differentiating valid free speech from harmful content, and the company’s willingness to work with the conservative community. He seemed sincere. He’s paid to be.
Many tech giants have worked to make inroads with conservatives and some have even built partnerships with establishment conservative organizations. From Google’s generous donations to George Mason University’s Law and Economics Center to Facebook’s work with Covington and Burling and the Heritage Foundation, big tech has been happy to throw money around to try to appease conservative institutions. And their efforts have been healthily rewarded.
Mainstream “principled” conservatives haven given these giants cover from potential anti-trust measures, have promoted laissez-faire regulatory schemes, and have largely ignored or excused censorship on what they may consider “private” platforms. They have also given these large companies legitimacy in the eyes of conservative legislators. Many conservatives in Washington have bought the explanation that these individual instances of censorship are isolated mistakes that are not indicative of a large-scale attempt to silence conservative commentators.
But as journalist Tim Pool noted in an episode of Joe Rogan’s podcast with top Twitter executives, these individual “grains of sand” of censorship seem to flow in one particular direction and this flow makes it increasingly difficult to believe that the tech giants are not targeting a specific ideology.
As long as conservatives see themselves and their friends continuously dealing with censorship, they will continue to see pervasive bias in the way tech giants operate. And no amount of friendly and moneyed outreach will dissuade them of this belief.
Ultimately, the inability for conservative institutions and lobbyists to ask the large tech companies hard questions about their policies and practices will hurt the conservative establishment. It will erode our trust that these organizations and individuals can stand up for the average conservative social media user and will foster increased dissatisfaction toward the organizations that are supposed to represent our interests.
Outreach is good — it’s important for relevant parties to have open and honest conversations to support their constituents and to address their concerns. But after years of continued action by the large tech companies against individual conservatives, it is becoming increasingly difficult for us to believe that this outreach is in good faith. And it is becoming increasingly difficult for us to believe that the institutions and organizations meant to protect our interests are doing so.
Karl Notturno (@KarlNotturno) is a fellow at the Center for American Greatness. He also serves as director of A Soldier’s Home, a nonprofit that helps homeless veterans. He graduated from Yale University with degrees in philosophy and history.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.