Twitter has suspended the account of Eoin Lenihan, a researcher who mapped out connections between mainstream journalists and the violent far-left Antifa movement on Twitter, following a mass-reporting campaign by left-wing activists.
Lenihan published the results of his research at Quillette, where he explained the twofold objective of his project — first, to discover the journalists who were most closely linked to Antifa via social media. Second, to discover if those journalists covered the extremist movement favorably or negatively.
In October 2018, my research partner and I decided to investigate the truth of this impression by using a mix of network mapping and linguistic analysis to see which prominent journalists who covered Antifa also were closely connected to leading Antifa figures on social media. We then inspected the Antifa-related stories these journalists had written.
We created a data set of 58,254 Antifa or Antifa-associated Twitter accounts based on the follows of 16 verified Antifa seed accounts. Using a software tool that analyzed the number and nature of connections associated with each individual account, we winnowed the 58,254 Antifa or Antifa-associated Twitter accounts down to 962 accounts. This represents a core group of Twitter users who are connected in overlapping ways to the most influential and widely followed Antifa figures. Of these 962 accounts, 22 were found to be verified—of which 15 were journalists who work regularly with national-level news outlets.
The journalists included contributors to The Guardian, The New Republic, Al Jazeera, and the Huffington Post.
Unsurprisingly, Lenihan’s analysis of the journalists who mingle with Antifa on Twitter found that none of them covered the movement critically:
That correlation turned out to be quite pronounced: Of all 15 verified national-level journalists in our subset, we couldn’t find a single article, by any of them, that was markedly critical of Antifa in any way. In all cases, their work in this area consisted primarily of downplaying Antifa violence while advancing Antifa talking points, and in some cases quoting Antifa extremists as if they were impartial experts.
Since he published his findings, Lenihan has had his account mass-reported on Twitter. Mass-reporting is when an account is swarmed by trolls who abuse the “report” button with the hopes of tricking a tech platform’s algorithms into automatically suspending them. Of course, with much of Silicon Valley now categorizing ordinary conservative speech as violations of their terms of service, this is an increasingly easy task. Lenihan’s account has now been suspended by Twitter for more than two days.