Twitter – the social media company that was just in the news for a shares’ loss of nearly 20 percent – is now under fire for perceived censorship of conservative viewpoints.
Noted conservative author and commentator Michelle Malkin picked up a thread that was making rounds on the social media site, writing in a tweet of her own: “Conservative Twitter users raising troubling questions whether @Twitter’s new ‘quality filter’ is censoring based on ideology.”
The remark was retweeted and favorited a combined 1,000-plus times. And among commenters was this one, from Milo Yiannopoulos: “It is.”
Another wrote: “I’m not even remotely surprised.”
The “quality filter” Malkin referenced came from the company’s announced new policy, as reported by Tech Crunch: “Quality filtering aims to remove all Tweets from your notifications timeline that contain threats, offensive or abusive language, duplicate content or are sent from suspicious accounts.”
But that policy is being applied in a seemingly biased manner, Malkin suggested, after her Twitter feed picked up a story of a suspended user, Doug Ernst, who writes for the Washington Times.
Ernst writes on his blog, under the heading of “Twitter: Death threats get a pass, but users who question that decision will be suspended,” in a recent post: “Twitter CEO Dick Costolo said earlier this year he was “ashamed” and “embarrassed” at how the company deals with bullying. Apparently they haven’t made much progress, because these days Twitter allows death threats to slide. Worse, if you’ve been the target of a death threat and you question how on earth the user responsible can get away with it, then Twitter Support will ban you. I know from first-hand experience.”
Ernst recounts how he posted on Twitter a link to a Washington Times story he wrote, and soon after received a tweet from a follower, Derrick Tapscott, saying: “@WashTimes @douglasernst WE WILL FIND YOU & KILL YOU #DEATHTOAMERICA.”
Ernst questioned Twitter about the email and received a generic response, also posted on his blog.
“We were unable to take action on the account given that we could not determine a clear violation of the Twitter rules,” part of the response reads.
Shortly after, Ernst posted his outrage on Twitter: “Some guy says he’s going to hunt me down and kill me, yet @twitter ‘could not determine a clear violation’ of its rules. Unreal …”
In a phone conversation, Ernst said it was “literally seconds” after he posted that tweet that Twitter suspended his account. That was April 6 and since, he’s been involved in a lengthy campaign with Twitter officials to have his suspension lifted, or at the least, to receive an explanation why his account was suspended, but not the one belonging to the poster who made the death threat. He’s written Twitter at least three times to seek clarification, but to no avail.
He’s also enlisted and received the help of others with social media savvy to press Twitter for the same information, and account re-activation.
In an email to WND, Ernst said: “If Twitter is willing to blatantly ignore a writer for a well-known newspaper like The Washington Times, how does the company respond to Joe and Jane American who might not have social media managers and others working on their behalf? … It seems like the lesson Twitter is trying to send with this suspension and its behavior is ‘Don’t you dare expose the man behind the curtain, or you will pay.'”
Ernst hasn’t concluded Twitter suspended his account due to his conservative background, which includes employment at the Heritage Foundation. But others are seeing partisan censorship at play – and the concerns have reached the point where even Malkin stepped into the fray and kicked off a Twitter campaign to similarly wonder.
Ernst also said, via email: “Twitter gets to put out press statements on how it’s working to mitigate online bullying or terror threats, but when someone with a decent-sized megaphone calls the company out on its woeful performance, then he must be silenced. The past three weeks have felt like something out of a Twilight Zone episode.”
Twitter, meanwhile, has just taken a hit of another kind – financially.
CNBC reported on a leaked earnings report just this week that indicated the company’s shares fell 18 percent based on disappointing first quarter earnings. The company’s adjusted earnings for the quarter were 7 cents per share on $436 million in revenues.