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19 Aug, 2020 16:39

If you can’t compete, cheat: Twitter’s shadow-banning of RT & other state-linked media proves the US narrative doesn’t measure up

If you can’t compete, cheat: Twitter’s shadow-banning of RT & other state-linked media proves the US narrative doesn’t measure up

With less than three months before US elections, Twitter has all but memory-holed RT and other state-run media – even searching their handles draws a blank. For a supposedly free-market country, the US sure hates competition.

The official Twitter accounts for RT, Xinhua, and other media outlets owned by certain governments the US doesn’t like are being pushed into the shadows, confirming that Twitter is getting serious about its role as one of the chief enforcers of US informational supremacy. But deploying the memory-hole against Washington’s rivals is tacitly admitting that the same informational supremacy would be doomed without such heavy-handed censorship.

Also on rt.com Twitter labels RT & Sputnik but NOT BBC, NPR & VOA as it launches blitz on state media staff & govt officials

Not only will Twitter refuse to auto-complete searches for the official accounts of RT, Sputnik, Xinhua, Global Times, and a handful of other outlets owned by Russia and China – typing in their handles with the @ symbol yields no results for users who don’t already follow these accounts. The platform has essentially made it impossible for the average Twitter user to accidentally stumble across their posts.

Turning off the “hide sensitive content” function in search settings allows state media accounts to surface under “people” – if their handle is searched exactly, with the @ symbol – tagged with the “state-affiliated media” warning Twitter has casually referred to as an “election label.” But posts from these outlets remain missing everywhere but in their own feeds. Running the accounts through Shadowban.eu confirms they’re subject to a “search suggestion ban.

While Twitter announced earlier this month that it would remove state-run media accounts from any ‘recommended’ screens, including the home screen, notifications, and search, the new policy’s wording left room for interpretation. Even employees at some of these organizations thought – perhaps naively – that Twitter wouldn’t go so far as to block searches for RT from turning up, well, RT.


Twitter explained its failure to slap a scarlet letter on the BBC, NPR, or Voice of America – all state-run media organizations – by claiming these outfits maintained some degree of editorial independence. While many at the time called this out as the egregious double standard it was, that was before learning how deeply Twitter intended to bury its victims.

While Twitter theoretically has a financial responsibility to its shareholders that would be best served by giving customers what they want, the company appears to have long since decided the only customers who matter are Uncle Sam and his client states. Though its own links with empire are not quite as egregious as, say, Facebook’s “election integrity” partnership with infamous pro-war think tank the Atlantic Council, one of Twitter’s highest-ranking European employees works for the UK’s 77th Brigade propaganda outfit, and another staffer, who worked on Democratic VP candidate Kamala Harris’s presidential campaign, is suspected of manipulating trending topics to bolster her chances at the White House. Representatives from the company have repeatedly met with US intelligence agencies to secure” the 2020 elections.

The suppression of “enemy” state-run media is just one part of a sweeping multi-platform crackdown on information that runs contrary to the US establishment, from medical doctors recommending hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for the novel coronavirus to positive or even neutral statements about murdered Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. Even the ramblings of QAnon conspiracy theorists who believe Trump is just pretending to wallow in the swamp he promised to drain, playing ‘4D chess’ to psych out his enemies, are now considered too dangerous for Twitter and Facebook, while the mere existence of Chinese-owned TikTok – a super-popular social platform not under US control – has so infuriated the Trump administration that the president is trying to buy it (or, if that fails, ban it).

Also on rt.com Colonialism 2.0: US assault on TikTok is latest step in building monopoly on hearts & minds of internet-connected world

If Washington can only win the battle for hearts and minds by silencing its competitors, the problem isn’t with Russian or Chinese state media – it’s with the sloppy quality of US propaganda and its growing divergence from reality. Selling a bankrupt nation whose citizens are forever at each other’s throats as a shining city on a hill and glowing example to the world’s democracies is a tall order, but it’s much easier to convince someone the sky is green when they don’t have any windows to look out of.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.