- The Washington Times - Friday, May 4, 2012

Twitter was buzzing April 29 over news that conservative Chris Loesch was having a hard time keeping his account online. The music producer and composer’s account was suspended and reinstated three times in 24 hours. Site administrators worked to stay ahead of an apparent campaign by leftist users to trigger automatic algorithms to kick him offline by reporting him as a spammer.

Mr. Loesch believes the spam-reporting campaign was sparked by comments he made in defense of his wife, conservative radio host, CNN contributor and Breitbart editor Dana Loesch. “It was business as usual for her I suppose,” he told The Washington Times. “Veiled threats, rape and murder comments, the typical liberal misogynist slag. Being the chivalrous and testosterone filled being I am requires me to protect the woman I love and call out the haters for being the ‘anonymous internet tough guys’ they are. … Needless to say they don’t like being called out and struck back by reporting me as a spammer or worse.”

He was notified of his suspension via an email from Twitter claiming it was due to multiple unsolicited mentions to other users. “You will need to change your behavior to continue using Twitter,” the email admonished. But Mr. Loesch was unwilling to even tacitly agree to his assumed guilt. “I never threatened anyone and am careful about being concise with what I write especially in public,” Mr. Loesch explained to us. “They were going to make me sign this note that said one more infraction and I would be permanently banned. I wasn’t going to do that so I wrote emails to some of their people.”

Mr. Loesch was reinstated for the third time on April 30. His case was surely helped by the rallying of support of fellow conservatives sending tweets using the hashtag (a twitter-specific identifier that groups tweets) #FreeChrisLoesch and #FreeChrisLoeschAgain after his subsequent suspensions. Countless tweets and retweets resulted in the tags quickly becoming the top two trending topics worldwide on the social-media network. As attention to his case increased, more conservative users came forward sharing experiences of having been suspended after tweeting about their political views.

If Twitter is indeed using an algorithm that allows user accounts to be reactively suspended according to malicious whims, that presents a serious shortcoming to using the site, regardless of politics. Confirming that conservatives are being targeted, or even that Mr. Loesch was under siege, is difficult as Twitter is notorious for stonewalling and did not respond to multiple requests for comment. An administrator did acknowledge a coordinated block to Mr. Loesch, however.

As conservatives gather more evidence and liberals screech about paranoia, Twitter’s ongoing silence on whether users can be arbitrarily shut down by a self-policing system is not the best response for individuals wondering if all tweets are treated equally.

Anneke E. Green is assistant editorial page editor of The Washington Times.