House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy learned something about Twitter this week, and it had nothing to do with the supposed censorship of right-wing users.
The California Republican sent a tweet on Friday complaining that conservatives were being censored on Twitter. He ordered Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to rectify the issue immediately.
— Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader) August 17, 2018
Little did McCarthy know at the time of the tweet that a few, simple clicks of a button on his account's settings would have enabled him to read Laura Ingraham's tweet. Many fellow Twitter users pointed out to McCarthy that he was unable to view Ingraham's tweet because he had the "Hide Sensitive Content" setting turned on. So, no, a shadowy conspiracy to hide conservative content was responsible for the censorship.
McCarthy is not alone, however, in complaining about the treatment of conservatives on social media. Many right-wing pundits and personalities have accused Twitter of implementing shadow bans on users, a targeted campaign that, allegedly, helps give liberals and progressives a larger voice and platform. USA Today succinctly explained the shadow ban controversy as follows:
It's a term used to describe a discreet ban of a user on a particular service. Instead of outright banning an account, a "shadow ban" allows the user access to the service as normal. The key difference is any contributions are either invisible or hidden in a way so no one can view them. For example, contributions might not appear through search features.
While Twitter insists that it does not target users based on their political leanings, conservatives are convinced they are victims of a McCarthy-like crusade. President Donald Trump himself has propagated the theory on his official Twitter account.
Twitter “SHADOW BANNING” prominent Republicans. Not good. We will look into this discriminatory and illegal practice at once! Many complaints.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2018
McCarthy's quick embrace of this conspiracy is not entirely surprising. The congressman hopes to fill Speaker Paul Ryan's seat when he retires next year. In 2015, McCarthy was denied Speaker of the House at the hands of Freedom Caucus members. They saw McCarthy as too moderate because he joined Boehner in opposing far-right Republicans’ efforts to shut down the government in 2013, in their vain attempt to stop much of the Affordable Care Act from being implemented. McCarthy clearly wants to prove his conservative bona fides by playing the victim of a social media censoring campaign.