The Left is fond of posing this straw man argument to POTUS Donald Trump regarding his tax returns: Hey, Mr. President, if you don’t have anything to hide, why not show us your returns?
Of course, the premise of the question is wrong to begin with; the president is under no legal or constitutional obligation to show Congress or the American people his private financial information, so it’s not really a matter of whether he’s got anything to hide. He does; his privacy.
But we’ll play the Left’s game and apply it to a different situation — social media censorship of conservative voices and independent media: If shadow banning isn’t illegal, then why be dishonest about doing it?
Because that’s just what representatives from tech behemoths Facebook and Twitter were doing this week during a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, an act that does have legal consequences if it is proven.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), asked both representatives point-blank if they engage in “shadow banning, and both denied that their companies did so — though, according to Breitbart News’ Allum Bokhari, the rep from Twitter “went on to describe practices that mirrors [sic] the covert censorship almost exactly.”
“Does Twitter or Facebook engage in shadow bans?” Cruz, chairman of the subcommittee on the Constitution, which sponsored the hearing, asked Wednesday.
Turning to the Twitter rep, Carlos Monje Jr., Cruz noted, “You testified before, or you acknowledged that Twitter will downgrade a comment to make it less visible. Does Twitter notify a person if their comment has been downgraded?”
“If we have signals indicating that a person is being a spammy, meaning they are using multiple accounts to do the same, if they are doing automated activity but we’re not 100 percent sure that they are breaking our rules, if they’re abusive then what we will do is make it harder for that content to be found in a couple of different places – one is in search results, and the other is in conversations — the replies,” Monje said. (Related: New alternatives to Twitter, Google, Facebook rapidly emerging: These sites won’t censor you.)
He didn’t say, however, whether the platform notifies users when their comments have been downgraded — shadowbanned.
“I believe the answer is ‘no’, and if the answer is ‘no,’ that, as far as I can tell, is all but indistinguishable from shadow banning,” Cruz responded.
Monje noted further, “At no point, sir, is a person’s followers unable to find what that person has tweeted.”
Really? Cruz returned fire: “But if it’s downgraded so far fewer people see it, that is exactly what is being alleged on shadow banning.”
As for Facebook, its representative also denied that shadow banning occurred on the platform.
“I would like to state unequivocally that Facebook does not favor one political viewpoint over another, nor does Facebook suppress conservative speech,” the company’s public policy director told the Senate panel.
It should be noted that there have been several studies and analyses done regarding censorship and shadow banning of conservative content by the social media platforms. And nearly all major conservative/independent publications over the past year and longer have reported substantial declines in traffic referrals from their social media accounts.
Earlier this month in an interview with The Hill, Cruz said, “Big tech behaves like the only acceptable views are those on the far left. And any views to the contrary are suitable for censorship and silencing.”
Normally, conservatives do not favor more government regulation. But these social media platforms are either taking marketing money from conservative/independent media while subsequently shadow banning them, or are denying them revenue from traffic. And that becomes a legal matter of interfering with legitimate commerce — in addition to a huge free speech issue.