But the researchers found that suspensions were predicted just as consistently by the accounts’ sharing of what survey participants from both parties agreed to be misinformation. In other words, Republican users were suspended more often because they were more likely to share misinformation.
Twitter, like other social platforms, also makes spot decisions to suppress content and accounts that share it, a practice that has often fueled paranoia among users — Mr. Trump among them. Conservatives have complained that the opacity of the company’s decision-making masks what they contend is a bias against them, noting that nearly all of the company’s employees’ political donations in recent elections have gone to Democrats.
“It’s somewhat of a platform that lost its way,” Mr. Cameron said, citing in particular its October 2020 decision to limit distribution of a New York Post article about Hunter Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine, which was sourced to files purportedly found on a laptop Mr. Biden abandoned at a repair shop. Jack Dorsey, then the company’s chief executive, later told a congressional committee the company’s action was a “mistake.” Mr. Musk tweeted this week that he believed the move “was obviously incredibly inappropriate.”
Prominent right-wing figures, meanwhile, have worn their suspensions from the platform as a badge of honor. Twitter “is an enemy to America and can’t handle the truth,” Marjorie Taylor Greene wrote on the messaging platform Telegram. Ms. Greene became the first sitting member of Congress to have a Twitter account permanently suspended, after repeatedly violating the company’s Covid-19 misinformation policies.
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Some prominent suspended users have since endorsed alternative platforms like Parler, Gab and Gettr that have marketed themselves as havens for speech no longer tolerated on Twitter — which has placed them in a tricky position as others on the right have celebrated the prospect of Mr. Musk’s overturning the company’s rules. Mr. Trump started his own Twitter alternative, Truth Social, this year, though its rollout has been rocky.
Mr. Bannon, the former Trump adviser, was banned from Twitter in November 2020 for suggesting on his talk show that Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease specialist, and Christopher Wray, the F.B.I. director, should be beheaded. He has since promoted Gettr, a platform helmed by Jason Miller, a former Trump spokesman.