Conservatives commonly accuse the major social media companies of censoring
the political right. In response to Twitter’s decision on January 8, 2021, to exclude
him from the platform, then-President Donald Trump accused the company of
“banning free speech” in coordination with “the Democrats and Radical Left.”

Two days earlier, Trump had included the ideological bias claim in an incendiary address to supporters, some of whom then participated in a riot inside the U.S. Capitol. “The radical left tries to blacklist you on social media,” Trump said in his speech. “They don’t let the message get out nearly as they should.”

This accusation—that social media platforms suppress conservatives— riles a Republican base that has long distrusted the mainstream media and is prone to seeing public events as being shaped by murky liberal plots. On a policy level, the bias claim serves as a basis for Republican attacks on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the federal law that protects platforms from liability associated with user posts and content moderation decisions.

But the claim of anti-conservative animus is itself a form […]

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