House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) on Sunday said that he was looking into "legal remedies" against Twitter after the social network temporarily made some conservatives' accounts harder to find.
In a report this week, Vice revealed that Twitter's attempt to curb abuse by trolls had resulted in some conservatives being "shadow banned," limiting the visibility of their accounts.
The Republican Party chair Ronna McDaniel, several conservative Republican congressmen, and Donald Trump Jr.’s spokesman no longer appear in the auto-populated drop-down search box on Twitter, VICE News has learned. It’s a shift that diminishes their reach on the platform — and it's the same one being deployed against prominent racists to limit their visibility. The profiles continue to appear when conducting a full search, but not in the more convenient and visible drop-down bar. (The accounts appear to also populate if you already follow the person.)
Presented with screenshots of the searches, a Twitter spokesperson told VICE News: “We are aware that some accounts are not automatically populating in our search box and shipping a change to address this.” Asked why only conservative Republicans appear to be affected and not liberal Democrats, the spokesperson wrote: “I'd emphasize that our technology is based on account *behavior* not the content of Tweets.”
Twitter quickly corrected the mistake.
But on Sunday, Nunes said that conservatives were considering legal action against Twitter.
"I had no idea what shadow banning even was," Nunes admitted to Fox News host Maria Bartiromo. "For several months, people have been contacting me saying that, 'Hey I tried to find you on Twitter, I couldn't find your account. Why is that?'"
"They don't call it shadow banning but, effectively, we were getting caught up in some type of trap to where people couldn't see our Twitter feed," he continued. "I don't know what Twitter is up to. It sure looks to me like they are censoring people and they ought to stop it."
"And we're looking at any legal remedies that we can go through," Nunes added.
As a private company, Twitter presumably has the right to control who uses its platform and to make moderation choice based on the behavior of individual users.