A few Tweets hit my desk this afternoon pointing to racial justice and Trump Derangement Syndrome by two employees at Twitter. By themselves, there’s not much to go on. In a company that size, anecdotal examples doesn’t paint a complete picture. So, I reached out to an old friend who has worked at Twitter for a while. He didn’t want his name or location used, not necessarily out of fear of retribution but simply over the headache of being “outed” as a conservative. According to “Billy,” the few outspoken conservatives at his office are generally scorned and engage in more debates than he’s willing to have.
The Tweets that prompted my inquiry came from two employees at Twitter, Chris Klotzbach in Product Marketing and Product Designer Ashleigh Kaneski. Parler user Nick Monroe posted screenshots of one Tweet that appears to be deleted, but throughout these and other Twitter employees’ Tweets we see a penchant for racial justice and a near-universal disgust for President Trump.
If you still think Trump isn’t racist when he is hosting a rally on the holiday that commemorates the ending of slavery in a town that experienced the single worst incident of racial violence in this country’s history you are the problem. Period.
— Ashleigh Kaneski (@ashleighkaneski) June 12, 2020
— Chris Klotzbach (@YOklotz) June 6, 2020
Expressing political opinions is allowed on Twitter by employees, so there’s nothing wrong with what they’re doing from an employment perspective. But considering how embroiled Twitter has been in recent weeks with accusations coming from as high as the White House regarding the social network’s bias, one would think the rhetoric among its employees would be subdued. And as “Billy” said, you’d never see a Twitter employee espousing conservative tenets on the site. So I asked him how he’s able to find other conservatives.
“I remember the old days when I would smoke weed and you could meet someone and just tell they were a smoker,” ‘Billy’ said. “I think the same thing happens at Twitter with conservatives. There are so few of us, it’s sort of easy to spot one if you know what to look for.”
Politics comes up almost as often as work-related tech issues, “Billy” told me. He said it’s during these discussions that he’s been able to identify potential conservatives in the mix, though he said there are likely many times more progressives than conservatives. Some are open with their politics but most just avoid the topic. I asked him what signs he looks for that someone is a closet conservative.
“A half-hearted laugh at a joke about Trump, which is pretty constant, or maybe a military tattoo or something,” he said. “It’s hard to spot but I’ve found a few. And by a few I mean it’s like one out of a hundred.”
Where he lives, the city is generally left-leaning, though not as bad as San Francisco or Seattle. I asked him whether he is part of some conservative club that has secret meetings or goes bowling together after work.
“We don’t talk about it, even when we’re alone. It’s pretty sad, really, and it’s not out of fear but futility,” he said. “I promise you, man, if the money wasn’t so good I’d leave in a heartbeat but where does a backend software engineer go where the politics are a match?”
“Billy,” who does not work at Twitter headquarters, told me how much he makes, and it’s significant. And therein lies one of the differences between conservatives and leftists. He has thick skin, so being surrounded by progressives doesn’t get him down. He said he enjoys the overall atmosphere and even has friends he works with, though none of them are among the few conservatives he met. He doesn’t judge them. He just lets them espouse their ideas and generally plays the role of being apolitical.
One circumstance that risks exposing his political leanings is when discussions occur, jokingly or not, about influencing Tweets. Apparently, Twitter has ways through which certain employees can “amplify” or “suppress” Tweets based on the whims of the workers. He said it’s not easy and requires access to very specific employees, but Tweets that do not break Terms of Service but that seem questionable in the eyes of the employees can be escalated to have the reach of the Tweet manipulated. Invariably, it’s right-leaning Tweets that get the “silent suppression treatment,” as “Billy” put it.
During such discussions, “Billy” attempts to dissuade his colleagues for the sake of being unbiased while trying not to seem sympathetic to conservative causes. He said they love to target Hollywood conservatives the most. “I’ve seen them suppress James Woods, Buffy (Kristy Swanson), and Superman (Dean Cain). It’s hard to stop them when they have a star in their sights.”
“Billy” declined to put me in contact with other conservatives at the company. Normally, I like two sources for every story but I’ve known “Billy” long enough that I see no reason to doubt his word. After all, it’s just his opinion, but judging by actions taken by Twitter since 2016, there’s no reason to think his tail is untrue.
Twitter employees are generally leftist, and while they claim to be unbiased, our insider says that’s not the case. With the 2020 election ramping up, one has to wonder how bad the site’s going to get before November.
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