Many prominent right-wing new media figures, including the president’s son Donald Trump Jr., latched on to a conspiracy theory over the weekend that being blocked on Twitter by entrepreneur and computer programmer William LeGate is an indication that your account has been placed in a restricted state by Twitter staff.
On Saturday, an anonymous Twitter user posted a poll to their profile that asked users to report if they had been blocked by LeGate, who “provides support” for Twitter according to a badge on his profile, because it “is rumored” that LeGate’s account is a “Twitter algorithm machine and that if you’ve been blocked by his account, then Twitter is #ShadowBanning you”:
It is rumored that @williamlegate is a twitter algorithm machine and that if you’ve been blocked by his account, then twitter is #ShadowBanning you. Please take a moment to go there and report back here to answer my polling question. #MAGA #TheResistance
— WSCP1 (@WSCP1) January 13, 2018
The poll was posted in the wake of a new batch of videos from Project Veritas, a conservative organization that has become notorious for secretly filming and deceptively editing videos aimed at attacking liberals. One of those videos depicts Twitter engineers explaining the site’s use of “shadow banning,” which most social media outlets and forum boards employ to allow site moderators to place problematic users in a restricted state without notifying them.
The Project Veritas videos reignited longstanding right-wing conspiracy theories that social media companies secretly censor conservative viewpoints from their platforms. As their search for definitive proof grows more desperate, pundits have begun to grasp for anything that could validate their claims.
Candace Owens, who uses the online moniker “Red Pill Black,” reported that she had been blocked by LeGate and tagged Project Veritas and its founder James O’Keefe:
I am blocked by this account. What about you guys? #shadowban @Project_Veritas @JamesOKeefeIII https://t.co/pOW3VH654F
— Candace Owens (@RedPillBlack) January 15, 2018
Responding to Owens, Trump Jr. reported that he had also been blocked by LeGate:
me too https://t.co/wtt1DDEtN2
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) January 15, 2018
Radio host Wayne Dupree posted a screenshot depicting that LeGate had blocked him, adding that this means that he was right that he was shadow banned:
I guess I was right. I am under #ShadowBan. I am hearing this account has reported a lot of conservative accounts to @Jack @Twitter
If so, I have never interacted with his person and have no connection to and from his account. Could you please remove this “ban” #Realtalk pic.twitter.com/K2LrbyAJeS
— Wayne Dupree (@WayneDupreeShow) January 13, 2018
Ben Garrison, a cartoonist popular among far-right and alt-right alternative media figures, tweeted out that he was blocked by LeGate, with the note “#twittercensorship exposed”:
@GrrrGraphics is blocked by @williamlegate -same here- #TwitterCensors targeting GrrrGraphics- #twittercensorship exposed https://t.co/IOTjRgIzxD
— BenGarrison Cartoons (@GrrrGraphics) January 11, 2018
Anna Khait, the former Survivor contestant turned far-right talk show host, responded to the original poll reporting that she, too, had been blocked:
Yep, I’m blocked
— Anna Khait (@Annakhait) January 15, 2018
The fact that we and everyone else can see the tweets from these users who claim that they have been shadow banned obviously disproves their claims, but that will certainly not stop them from repeating it.
LeGate told Right Wing Watch that he wrote a computer script that blocked various right-wing profiles on Twitter after users on 4Chan targeted him for harassment last year.
“I never blocked a single person on Twitter until 4Chan attempted to harass and dox me. There was a very coordinated effort about six months ago, and I received literally thousands of death threats during that time in addition to being ‘SWATTED’ by a troll who called into the FBI with a false report about me planning a terror attack. After all this abuse, I wrote a script which blocked people based on their likelihood to harass me, and it was extremely effective—the number of threats I received has since plummeted. It’s not perfect and sometimes blocks people (on both sides of the political spectrum) who aren’t abusive,” LeGate told Right Wing Watch.
He added that “it says a lot about the alternate reality the Trumps have relied on” that “such an absurd conspiracy could make it all the way to the Trump family.”