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Cancillería del Ecuador/Flickr (CC-BY-SA)
Activists noticed something was wrong on Tuesday morning.
Twitter denied shadowbanning user Christine Assange on Tuesday, after activists said tweets by the mother of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who recently joined the social media platform, were being hidden from users.
New Zealand Internet Party leader Suzie Dawson first flagged the alleged shadowban on Tuesday morning via her own Twitter account.
Your Twitter account has been shadowbanned.
Here is the proof: pic.twitter.com/xFL8L6fCiH
— Suzie Dawson (@Suzi3D) May 15, 2018
Dawson used an open source third party tool, which crawls and scans the search page on Twitter’s website, to identify that tweets from the @AssangeMrs account were not showing in public searches.
Other users confirmed that they could not see Assange’s tweets either.
Confirmed with my sock puppet account. Jack sucks! pic.twitter.com/7MIkP4N6Zb
— Currie Dobson No More War (@Ventuckyspaz) May 15, 2018
A notification ban or shadowban is when a user’s posts are hidden without making that user aware that their posts are not appearing for others. A shadowbanned user’s tweets won’t show up in searches, mentions or in replies.
Christine Assange first joined Twitter on May 5 and began posting in support of her son, who remains isolated inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he has resided since 2012. Originally, the WikiLeaks founder had fled to the embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden where, at the time, he faced an investigation related to allegations of sexual assault.
Although that investigation has been dropped, Julian Assange is still the subject of a Justice Department investigation that has been ongoing since 2010 and fears that if he leaves the embassy U.K. authorities, who have threatened to arrest him for breach of bail, will extradite him to the U.S.
People in power will not protect Julian without pressure & protest from the people
Back up your prayers with protests
"Evil flourishes when good men do nothing"
A variety of actions to suit everybody are listed in my timeline
Thank you for your part in helping protect him
— Mrs. Christine Assange (@AssangeMrs) May 14, 2018
Christine Assange has joined a wide movement of activists under the banner of #ReconnectAssange, which has aimed to raise awareness of the WikiLeaks founder’s situation since the Ecuadorian government abruptly cut off his internet and suspended his right to receive visitors on March 28.
Hours after Dawson alerted supporters to Tuesday’s reported shadowban, the same third party tool and a search on Twitter show that any ban has now been lifted.
In a comment to the Daily Dot, a Twitter spokesperson denied the allegations made by the activists that the company had shadowbanned Assange.
However, activists remain unconvinced. In another incident on Monday, during a social media push for an online radio show that will feature Christine Assange, set to take place this Saturday, six core Twitter accounts were locked suddenly and simultaneously for “exhibiting bot like behavior.”
SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: @CommanderXanon weekly show to premier Saturday with Extra Special VIP Guest @AssangeMrs in a special #ReconnectJulian episode (with co host @AmyBethDoyon ) tune in at 10:00 PM CT – 3:00 AM UTC and join the tweet-storm. Learn how you can help! pic.twitter.com/oCeUQIXok0
— Anonymous Global Internet Radio (@AnonGlobalRadio) May 13, 2018
Those accounts, promoting Assange’s appearance, are associated with Anon Radio and personally managed by veteran hacker Commander X. X is convinced that both the incident with Assange’s account and the lock out he experienced on Monday evening were part of a censorship campaign ahead of the show in a bid to stop it happening.
“Last night my accounts were simply locked for being flagged as bots,” he told the Daily Dot. “The only thing those accounts have in common is they were all being used by me at that moment to pump our show with Christine.”
“So, apparently even tweeting about Christine gets you labeled as a (Russian?) bot,” he continued. “People will do anything to stop this radio show. And that along with Christine is what this is about… we won’t let them silence us, it will air.”
When asked about X’s mass lock out, a Twitter spokesperson refused to comment on individual user accounts for privacy reasons and referred the Daily Dot to the company’s rules.
David Gilmour is a reporter who specializes in national politics, internet culture, and technology. He previously covered civil liberties, crime, and politics for Vice.