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Is Twitter a Menace?

Social media is decried as the denizen of fake news and slander.  How did social media happen and does it have a problem?

Twitter was founded in March 2006.  Amongst its first users were large media chains.  The BBC News was one of the first to publicise Twitter, joining in Jan 2007.  The joining dates of other big media were CNN Feb 2007, New York Times March 2007, NBC News March 2008, Daily Express Dec 2008, ITV News Feb 2009, Guardian Nov 2009, Daily Mail Feb 2010.  These established media companies used Twitter to host their user groups and provided massive advertising free of charge for Twitter - "if you wish to comment on this program go to Twitter hash tag bbcqt" etc.  Yes, the BBC advertised a commercial corporation on every other programme and no questions were asked despite this being against its Charter.

The Twitter user population exploded:

There can be little doubt that the established media advertised the new media for free and created its huge influence.

Twitter is the platform most used for political debate. It is run by billionaire Jack Dorsey.  A platform run by an American billionaire is hardly a good foundation for a debating medium in a democratic society.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey testifies in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee
Jack Dorsey
Twitter uses "Shadow Banning" ruthlessly and during 2016 was exposed for hiding the Twitter posts and search results for prominent Republicans (See Twitter is shadow banning prominent republicans). Twitter claimed they had stopped Shadow Banning Republicans in 2016 but were caught out doing it again in 2018 (See Metro article).  There is an excellent, impartial, academic study of Twitter shadow banning called "Setting the Record Straighter on Shadow Banning" which gives objective proof that Twitter routinely shadow bans.  This study was unable to measure the effects of automatically removing "like", "follower" and "retweet" counts and other methods of freezing out users that Twitter regards as politically undesirable and so represents a substantial but minimum estimate of shadow banning.

Twitter used to claim that it was a fair platform (even though it was not) but they changed their terms and conditions in 2020 to explicitly allow them to Shadow Ban at will:

"We may stop (permanently or temporarily) providing the Services or any features within the Services to you or to users generally. We also retain the right to create limits on use and storage at our sole discretion at any time. We may also remove or refuse to distribute any Content on the Services, limit distribution or visibility of any Content on the service, suspend or terminate users, and reclaim usernames without liability to you." See Yes, Now you can be Shadow Banned from Twitter

Even according to Dorsey conservative-leaning employees of Twitter don’t feel safe to express their opinions.  Twitter is an explicitly partisan platform representing Democrats, Labour, Remainers and Big Business interests ie: Internationalism.  Dorsey was undoubtedly pro-Remain and is on record as considering Leave voters to be victims of ignorance.  This is the standard Remain refrain to explain how being governed by the EU was not accepted by the UK.  Shadow Banning and outright ejection of Leave voting Twitter users has left Twitter with an overwhelmingly Remain user base.

The huge preponderance of Remainers on Twitter cannot be explained by demographics given that the difference in demographics between Facebook and Twitter is nowhere near large enough to explain the 2:1 excess of Remainers (See Note 1).  Those users who favoured independence for the UK were shadow banned and ejected.  The Twitter bias is not truly left-right (the US Democrats are right wing by British standards), it is Internationalist, Dorsey wants to make money globally and his corporate advertisers make profits from global trade.

It is astonishing that the media carry endless tales of the Russians winning it for Brexit or Trump but are totally silent about, and suppressing the news that, Twitter is being run by the opponents of Trump and Brexit, the Extreme Internationalists.  Although Trump and an independent UK are separate phenomena they share the same enemy.

Twitter is especially sensitive to China where international trading is most intense.  It has banned the financial market website Zero Hedge from Twitter for running an article on the possibility that Covid-19 escaped from a laboratory in Wuhan.   See Reuters.

It is ironic that the established media companies who created the sales momentum for Twitter in the noughties are upset that it carries "fake news".  Twitter is now obliging its media customers by banning any news they might dislike.  News suppression is the method used by the established media to maintain bias and it has been adopted by Twitter.

Foreign Twitter users are treated with contempt by the Twitter system because they have no US constitutional rights.  If a foreigner is banned by Twitter any complaints are met with utter silence. This should worry all non-Americans who use the platform.  You cannot blame the Russians when Twitter itself is utterly biased.

Democratic governments have not grasped the problem of democratic debate being hosted by foreign billionaires.  Such a system is not democratic nor fair and Twitter should be held to account as a publisher, it can then be compelled to relinquish any claims to being fair and to make it absolutely clear where its bias lies.
The UK Government should ensure that we have our own, National, social media. If they do not do this then the national debate will become dominated by foreign priorities (see Note 2).

Update: since this article was written the USA has introduced an Executive Order to regulate Twitter (29th May).  My current Twitter ID was briefly un-Shadow Banned for the first time in years but after a few hours the ban returned. My guess is that they changed the Shadow Banning software this morning, probably to give the appearance of not shadow banning in the USA. Twitter is applying automated methods of influencing UK politics. I have had several Twitter IDs that were all banned, take a look for @johnsydenham or @JohnSydnam in Twitter, I never used a rude word or racist statement but I did support Leave.

Note 1: The analysis of Twitter during the Referendum is fraught, for instance it is claimed widely in the Remain press that about 45,000 Tweets from Russian Twitter farms swung the Referendum when there were about 3 million tweets about the Referendum during the period of activity.  Twitter farms acting for Remain are not mentioned.   The Putin menace is, of course, a diversion to stop anyone from asking about the bias of the Twitter platform itself.
Note 2: It is easy to control Twitter in the UK by measures such insisting that Twitter UK is run by a UK based subsidiary that must follow UK rules on openness and publishing.  This will need a National Firewall to be implemented but, frankly, countries that do not install National Firewalls on the Internet are asking for trouble and destabilisation as the Russian enemy is succeeded by China.  China is a professional when it comes to Internet based subversion.



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