Speaking in the Shadows:
My name is Suzzanne Monk. I'm a pro-Trump social media "personality"; I host a daily livecast called Trump Talk US live in DC with Suzzanne Monk on Facebook and Twitter, I've written 3 books about supporting Trump, and I have done several speaking engagements talking about our President. I post and tweet daily about our president and have since the campaign in 2016.
Now I don't have the reach of a Diamond and Silk or a Terrence Williams. I'm not a Milo or Dennis Michael Lynch. My 24,450+ followers on Twitter is a moderate number, and my daily shows only get 2,000 to 3,500 views compared to the tens of thousands, even millions of views other social media "personalities" get.
I'd say I'm on the D list of the Trump Social Media world. But that hasn't protected me from the censorship of conservative social media voices. As we saw Diamond and Silk testify on the floor of Congress recently, Facebook (and Twitter) have been shadowbanning these women, preventing their millions of followers from seeing their posts, among other tactics. However, it's not just the internet A listers who are having our voices supressed. It's happening to us D listers too.
Sites like Facebook and Twitter (even Youtube) are using a variety of tactics to silence the voices of Trump supporters and conservatives. They shadowban us, delete our friends, hide our groups, block or delete our posts, punish us with Facebook jail and more. In the almost 3 years since Donald Trump annouced his run for president, I have had a chance to experience an entire arsenal of censorship on the major social media platforms. Here are just a few of the ways they use to control political speech they don't like....and that's any speech that supports President Trump like I do.
Let's start with the latest hot topic, the "shadow ban". The term shadow ban refers to any technique that hides a user's posted content from their followers, without overtly blocking or removing their post. Often a user has no idea they are being shadowbanned. There's more than one way to suppress the views of a user's posts, all of them unknown to the user themself. Hence the term "shadow" ban; the user is being banned in the "shadows" rather than being openly banned.
The most common way is just to not post a user's posts to the news feed of their followers. This is the equivalent of yelling into an empty room you think is full. We believe that when we post something, our friends and followers get a chance to see it. However, as a conservative on social media, your posts are just NOT put into your friend's or follower's feeds. They don't see your posts because Facebook isn't showing them to your people. There's many a time I've had friends complain that they aren't seeing my posts, even when they have favorited my page, which should show all my posts at the top of their newsfeed. To them, I'm just not posting, until they come to my page directly and see my posts. Often they comment, "I wondered what happened to you, I haven't been seeing your posts."
Another common complaint is that my viewers do not get notifications that I am live on Facebook. People who follow a page can choose to receive notifications that someone you follow is live on FB video. That way, in case you miss it in the newsfeed, you will get a notification so you can tune in. Facebook does not give notifications to many of my viewers who daily complain that they are not getting notified as they have requested.
Because I do my show daily, I have been able to see the patterns of shadowbanning on my show. More often than not, my post is not shared in feeds, notifications are not given, and I am rarely shown as live in the red circle at the top of the Facebook feed, or the "story" section. Many of the viewers who view my show have to make a special effort to find my show to watch it.
This leads us to the second way Facebook tries to reduce my viewership among people who WANT to view my content. By causing problems with the video feed, FB and Twitter cause viewers to get fed up trying to watch a bad feed.
Tactics include blocking the sound while leaving the video, blacking out the video while leaving the sound, intermittent freezing of the video, repeated total freezing causing a viewer to have to reload the video page. There can be over pixelization as well as viewers just have the video "kick them off" repeatedly. When it becomes very difficult to watch a video in this way, many viewers are likely to "give up", lowering your views and viewership.
When I was broadcasting Trump Talk US on Periscope (which is now the Twitter life video platform) during the 2016 election, the platform would frequently freeze my video. The only way to end the freezing was to stop the video and restart. I once restarted my livecast 26 times just for one episode, filled with a stubborn resistance, determined to not let the censors beat me.
Deleting views, shares, "reach" and more
I've even seen Facebook actually reduce the number of views over time. By checking the views regularly after a show, and checking again later to see how the replay views are growing, I have had multiple chances to see FB actual list less views after time has past, as if people had "unwatched" the video. I have seen them delete shares as well, or block the shares on the sharer's page.
A friend once shared my live video on their own page, only to have FB block it as spam with no way to refute it. He shared it again, FB blocked it again as spam, no way to refute their action. He posted a third time, FB blocked it as spam, but finally offered a button to reply that it was not spam. When he did reply that the post was intended, FB finally responded that my live feed was in fact not spam, and allowed him to share my live video to his page. By this time, however, it was several minutes into the show he had tried to share, making it harder for his friends to join in as he intended.
FB also has number called "reach", which is supposed to be the number of people who "saw" the video in their feed without necessarily clicking on it and viewing it. In viewing the ratio of views to reach, a user can often see unusual patterns in the ratio when you are in a strong pattern of shadow banning.
All of these methods come in patterns. FB will use many of the tactics at the same time, over a period of time. Every few weeks the pattern changes, sometimes the banning becoming less, often the banning becoming worse. The various components are used in different groupings, making it hard for the user to establish an effective pattern of action to get around some of the tactics. As soon as you figure out a way around one form of censorship, they change the "algorithm" and suppress you in a new way.
Deleting and adding friends, groups and pages
Facebook and Twitter are also deciding who you will connect with without your approval or knowledge. Many of my page followers report having to "relike" my page multiple times, as when coming to my page that they have already liked that it has somehow been unliked, and they must like it again. Several have had to like my page a half a dozen times or more.
They have also been known to add people to my friend list that I did not add. I have often found people who "troll" my posts, or post negative and insulting comments are on my friend's list even though I have not chosen to add them. FB has also removed friends I have added. This is only discovered when the friend messages wondering why I unfriended them.
Many internet personalities have many friends on their list, often near the limit of 5,000, myself included. With a larger number of contacts, it's nearly impossible to keep track of every friend. The larger your following is, the harder it is to know that friends have been deleted or non friends have been added.
On Twitter, I have actually found the site has blocked people for me as well. A fellow blogger and I were once tagged in a post together. When I went to her page it claimed I had blocked her. I unblocked her, and found that allegedly, she had blocked me. I tweeted about the block to my friend, who tweeted to the other blogger. She claimed to not have blocked me and unblocked on her end as well. Both of us had been blocked to the other without either of us actually choosing to.
Facebook may be actually not just blocking who sees your posts, but also ensuring people you disagree with do see your posts. Many friends had a similar experience to mine in the early days of Trump, when friends that had a different political opinion than mine would frequently pop in political posts. Many of us had a more diverse friends list in 2015 and 2016, with people of varying opinions. The division in our culture has made that difficult, but so has Facebook. By drawing in people on our posts who disagree, FB creates the conflict that leads to a culture of animosity online.
This increased animousity leads to a choice. By continuing to keep your profile public as many internet personalities do, or by allowing trolls to go unblocked, a user puts themselves at risk of being reported by the trolls. We are left with the choice to hide our page, block people, or end up in Facebook jail.
Spam, deleted posts and Facebook jail
As a conservative, having your posts reported is likely to lead to having your post removed or having your privileges to use FB revoked. Posts that "offend" people on the left are often marked as spam and removed, or having them deleted out right. If you are lucky, when you post is deleted, you are just given a warning. If you are unlucky you can land yourself in Facebook jail.
Facebook jail is the common term for the "punishment" FB doles out for posts that allegedly violate it's "community standards. There are different levels of FB jail. You can be put in "share jail" which prevents you from sharing posts, even to groups you are in or admin. You can be put in general FB jail, where you can see what others post, but cannot post or comment. You can also receive an even harsher form of FB jail which bars you from using messenger as well as being unable to post anything. These various forms have different sentences and are often issued with no consistent enforcement. Share jail can last a few days, and you are rarely told how long. The more official for of FB jail lasts for an increasing amount of time after each infraction. First infraction gets you 24hrs, second is 3 days, 1 week, 2 weeks and then 30 day sentences each time after that. Whether you get FB jail or a warning or severe FB jail is arbitrary and inexplicable.
While FB jail is supposed to be punishment for violating the rules, often the rule allegedly broken makes no sense, or worse, no reason is given at all.
At the same time, when people on the left overtly violate the rules, making death threats and violent insults, FB ignores them. In an article I wrote last year, I detailed an instance where local pro illegal immigrant groups were issuing death threats to a Latino Trump supporter. Though many of us reported the death threats as a clear violation of FB community standards, FB repeatedly claimed they did not and left the offensive and threatening posts up. Only once I penned an article calling out FB for ignoring the death threats did FB remove the post. Three days later, I found that I was put into FB jail for replying to a news article about Black Lives Matter with the words "Oh, BLM, sad."
Others have screenshotted the FB jail notice they received which literally has NOTHING after the sentence "the following post violates community standards". They have been banned from FB for nothing, and there is no resource to have your "sentence" reduced.
Banned and deleted
If you have truly raised the ire of Facebook or Twitter, you may find yourself banned for life. Famously, the Twitter account of Milo Yiannopoulos was shut down, and the infamous gay Trump supporter was banned from Twitter. Many other internet personalities have had a similar experience. Also, users have found their pages deleted without explanation. Diamond and Silk found their page shut down in this exact way, and only after much attention by the press did they get FB to restore their page.
Youtube users have often complained that their videos have been demonetized. By removing the ability to have ads on their popular videos because of their content, videos that once made significant revenue now make none.
However, shadowbanning in any form actually demonetizes authors and podcasters like me. Because FB prevents people from seeing my show, I am less able to sell and promote my books. Fewer people see my articles, and when I try to help raise funds for my favorite causes, fewer people see that as well. FB and Twitter are actually taking food off my table by limiting my reach, just as they are taking food off the table of Diamond and Silk and others. By silencing our voices because we are Trump supporters, they are limiting our ability to make a living and help save our country.
The question we all can't help but ask, why? Why are conservatives shadowbanned, blocked, manipulated, and censored while Democrats and their political sheep are allowed to leave death threats with impunity? It's not the content of our posts, many violent posts from the left prove that.
We are told that we violate "community" standards. However, the people in our social media communities are even being allowed to see our posts, while those who will find them offensive have them shoved in their face. We create our communities, but it is Facebook's community that controls what we say and see, not the people who choose to view our posts.
So the only answer that seems plausible is that social media corporations are operating on an agenda to silence pro-Trump voices. They are desperate to silence voices with huge audiences. They are also desperate to silence voices with smaller audiences. Whether you have millions of viewers or merely thousands, the same tactics are used to silence pro-Trump internet personalities regardless of size. They use the same tactics on just regular folks using social media.
Media companies have a right to enforce their own policies, even if we disagree with them. But the social media companies are enforcing policies that we did not agree to. They are using political opinion to deny us the services we signed up for. We didn't sign up to a site that openly refused service to conservatives. Yet that is exactly what we are getting.
What to do?
So how do we fix this problem? How do we end the social media censorship of conservatives and Trump supporters? How do we restore liberty and diversity of thought on these once great platforms? Lawsuits? Petitions? More Senate hearings? Or do we leave the social media platforms that are censoring us and find new sites that value liberty?
I often think the only real answer is the last one. Maybe it's time to turn Facebook into the next Myspace, a long forgotten site on the junk heap of social media history that has long since lost it's appeal since the next new site has taken over. Hopefully, the next site understands how to let people be free to speak their mind regardless of politics.
I'm already trying out a few replacements. If you're curious, you can find me trying out InfinitySN. It may still be small and in it's growing stage, but at least it is censorship free.
Finally, a place where Trump supporters aren't forced into the shadows.