Twitter Censored Hashtags Critical Of Hillary Clinton During US Presidential Election

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

It’s almost an year since Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton and won the presidency of the United States. There were allegations that Trump’s campaign team colluded with Russia – no friend of the US – to defeat Democratic party nominee Clinton. Ten months after Trump was sworn in, special counsel Robert Mueller announced charges on Monday (30 October) against his three campaign advisers including campaign chairman. However, these charges against Manafort and his pal Rick Gates are old and not related to activities of last year. The jury is still out on whether there was any collusion.

However, before it could be settled if foreign power colluded to help Trump win the election, it is increasingly becoming clear the domestic powers did try to help his rival Clinton.

Twitter, in a senate hearing, has revealed that it censored tweets critical of Clinton. Twitter general counsel Sean Edgett said in his testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee that, “Approximately one quarter (25 per cent) of #PodestaEmails tweets received internal tags from our automation detection systems that hid them from searches.”

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“Our systems detected and hid just under half (48 per cent) of the Tweets relating to variants of another notable hashtag, #DNCLeak, which concerned the disclosure of leaked emails from the Democratic National Committee,” he added further.

Wikileaks had dumped thousands of documents on internet which belonged to Democratic National Committee (DNC) servers and Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta. Democrats had alleged that Russian hackers leaked the documents to Wikileaks and Trump campaign colluded with them to damage Clinton.

Now Twitter has openly accepted that its algorithms did try to bury the tweets with hashtags #PodestaEmails and #DNCLeaks. “It was part of our general efforts at the time to fight automation and spam on our platform across all areas,” Twitter counsel Sean Edgett said however he also noted that only two per cent of the tweets using the #DNCLeak hashtag were from potentially Russian-linked accounts.

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In fact, these leaked emails by Wikileaks had shown that Democrat party officials were colluding with Hillary Clinton’s campaign team to help her defeat Senator Bernie Sanders, her main challenger in the primaries.

Twitter’s revelations has serious consequences. This is nothing short of interfering in an independent election process by a private organisation in an attempt to censor the people’s voice and help tilt the scales in favour of a candidate which Twitter preferred.

If Twitter can so brazenly attempt to meddle in the US election, we shouldn’t be surprised if its Indian officials try to replicate the same in India. What if they are already doing it? What if they have done it in the past? How will the people of India know? There is case to be made for high-level bipartisan Parliament committee to be formed which invite Twitter India officials for deposition and ask them under oath if their algorithms have buried any tweets during our elections too.

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If its conduct has been anything less than neutral, the government must move towards censoring Twitter before it censors the voice of Indians.