We might need to rename the Captain Louis Renault Award after this. MSNBC’s Ari Melber has suddenly discovered that Twitter can actually shadowban and throttle users, candidates, and parties, now that Elon Musk has bought the company but not yet completed the sale. Literally, the only change at Twitter thus far has been a bill of sale, and yet everything that the Left claimed was conservative conspiracy theorizing about Twitter’s power is suddenly an existential crisis for life as we know it.
Welcome to the party, pal (transcript via Newsbusters):
Absolutely incredible: pic.twitter.com/2OHpxVk6mi
— Benny Johnson (@bennyjohnson) April 26, 2022
It’s true if you are a democracy like the United States that used to regulate media ownership and say Rupert Murdoch can’t have too many local TV stations and newspapers in one town, they have laws for that are still on the books but the Congress hasn’t gotten around to limiting whether someone can own all of Twitter.
And as we discussed in one of our special reports just last week, if you own all of Twitter or Facebook or what have you, you don’t have to explain yourself. You don’t even have to be transparent. You could secretly ban one party’s candidate or all of its candidates, all of its nominees. Or you could just secretly turn down the reach of their stuff, and turn up the reach of something else and the rest of us might not even find out until after the election.
Elon Musk says this is all to help people because he is just a free speech, philosophically clear open-minded helper, a world helper if you will. Is that true? Should you take him at his word? Should you care about this whether you have a Twitter account or not? This is important stuff.
Guess what? That’s precisely the point made by conservatives about Twitter for the past several years. Twitter has always had that power, and the experience of many has been that Twitter has used it.
Sometimes they have done so overtly, such as when Twitter throttled mention of Hunter Biden’s laptop story in the weeks before the 2020 election and locked out the New York Post for reporting on it. They made sure that as few people as possible didn’t “find out” about that story “until after the election,” even though other sources had authenticated the e-mails and others had corroborated the stories. Twitter booted Donald Trump from the platform, and yet still The board still allows Beijing’s official propagandists to spread COVID-19 conspiracy theories about US origin in biolabs. Terror-state leader Ali Khamenei still uses Twitter promote his extremist rantings, among a number of other such examples. (Nicolás Maduro and Louis Farrakhan are apparently still on Twitter, too.) But we’re at least safe from the Babylon Bee and Gay Patriot!
And sometimes they have done so less overtly. Twitter has complied with progressive demands to sideline dissent to climate-change claims, that example coming just before Musk’s bid, and they have also imposed speech codes that seem to be tilted all in the same direction — to disadvantage conservatives. Twitter insists that it doesn’t “shadowban,” but it sounds as though Melber believes they have the power to do it. Does anyone doubt that Twitter’s current management would use it if they had the power to do so, in exactly the same way that Melber describes? It would certainly fit their pattern of behavior.
Bear in mind that all this took place when under the control of a corporate board, too. Melber’s point would be better taken if Twitter’s corporate board had acted to enforce a fair-play free speech policy rather than viewpoint suppression. However, they didn’t — the board instead leaned heavily on the scale, and consistently in favor of Melber’s side. That’s what has Melber freaking out; the days of wine and roses are over for MSNBC and progressives in their ability to pressure the board into marginalizing conservative speech.
Or at least we hope they’re over. I’m still not entirely sanguine about Musk’s commitment to a truly free and open forum for political debate while managing to hold onto advertisers. I’ll wait to truly celebrate until Musk has taken the helm and I can see the direction in which he’ll sail. It’s at least making the right people freak out, and forcing them to ‘fess up to Twitter’s power to impact politics.
So welcome to the party, indeed … or at least the casino. Melber can collect his winnings at the door.