Donald Trump Jr. keeps saying he's shadowbanned on social media, but there's not much evidence backing up his claim
- Donald Trump Jr., a vocal critic of tech companies, is claiming that Twitter and Instagram are limiting the reach and engagement of his posts after he saw a dip in traffic on his profiles.
- Trump said he was watching his "algorithms get crushed" on Instagram on Sunday night, adding in a tweet that his retweet count was lower than usual.
- Insider found that while Trump's recent Instagram posts did have lower engagement than older posts, his tweets had been earning above-average retweets. He's also repeatedly made the claim that he's being shadowbanned.
- Twitter declined to comment on the claims, and an Instagram representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Donald Trump Jr. is claiming his personal social-media accounts on Instagram and Twitter are being shadowbanned — i.e., suppressed without notification — as his father, President Donald Trump, alleges censorship by tech companies over their handling of the New York Post's Hunter Biden article. But the younger Trump is recycling the allegation, which he has frequently made in years past during his war with tech companies, and an analysis of his tweets show they've in fact received higher engagement than normal recently.
In an Instagram video on Sunday, Donald Trump Jr. said he was watching his "algorithms get crushed" as his posts were reaching fewer users on the app. In the video, apparently taken from bed, he said he must have done something to "piss off the Instagram gods."
"In IG jail," the caption said. "Watching my post get about 20% of what they were getting last week so if you want turn on post notifications that way maybe you'll at least see my stuff." His posts on Sunday reached about 60% of the likes he received on posts from the week before, Insider found.
He appeared to be referring to the reach and engagement of his Instagram posts by saying his "algorithms" were being "crushed," a common complaint among Instagram influencers (including style, lifestyle, wellness, and other genres of influencers). Instagram feeds no longer appear in reverse-chronological order, and the app uses a mysterious algorithm to organize the content users see on their feed.
On Twitter, Donald Trump Jr. also accused both platforms of shadowbanning. "Twitter has been throttling my reach," he said in a tweet Sunday, adding that his tweets were getting one-third of his usual retweets. "Instagram is doing the same & worse for the last few days."
—Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) October 18, 2020
His claim about his loss in Twitter engagement does not appear to be correct. According to Social Blade, a website that tracks social-media analytics, his tweets receive roughly 5,400 retweets on average. Many of his recent tweets have earned more than that.
A Twitter representative declined to comment on the allegations, and an Instagram representative was not immediately available to comment.
There's no indication that Donald Trump Jr.'s content has actually been deprioritized by platforms, and there are several other factors that play into one's engagement and reach on social media, including timing, quality, and algorithm changes or variability.
Not the first allegation of censorship by tech companies
Conservatives have claimed for years, with little evidence, that tech companies are unfairly censoring their voices via algorithm.
A July 2018 Vice article alleged that Twitter had censored prominent Republicans, including Donald Trump Jr.'s spokesperson, Andrew Surabian. The article was widely disputed by other outlets, including The New York Times, and a Twitter representative said in a statement: "As we have said before, we do not 'shadowban.'"
In February, Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri said that "shadowbanning is not a thing," adding that while being featured on the platform's Explore page was not guaranteed, followers of an account would be able to see any and all posts in their feed.
Beyond claims of a Twitter shadowban, Donald Trump Jr. has also had other brushes of trouble with the platform. Over the summer, his Twitter account was suspended for 12 hours for violating the platform's COVID-19 misinformation policy.
His recent complaints come after days in which his father and allies have criticized Twitter for blocking users from sharing the link to a highly contested New York Post article about Hunter Biden that has had its validity questioned.
Earlier Sunday, the younger Trump posted a doctored screenshot of a tweet that was blocked because it shared the New York Post story. The edited image showed Twitter's "Tweet not sent" notification saying the tweet couldn't be sent because it was "potentially harmful to Joe Biden's campaign."
In the post's caption, the younger Trump wrote that "Big Tech" had too much power and was "wielding it like a broadsword to destroy your freedoms and your voice."
In August 2018, Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut said in a tweet that Facebook and YouTube barring Infowars' Alex Jones was the "tip of the iceberg" in platforms' work to rid their platforms of "hate and lies." Donald Trump Jr. appeared to align himself with Jones, who is known for propagating a conspiracy theory falsely describing the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, as a hoax.
"A Democrat Senator openly admitting that Big Tech's censorship campaign is really about purging all conservative media," he said, quote-tweeting the senator.
A representative for Donald Trump Jr. did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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