SCARLET LETTER

Why a Red ‘X’ Is the New Symbol of Conservative Twitter

After Alex Jones was ‘censored’ by social media companies, right-wing users are replacing Pepe with a new emoji.

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey took the unusual step Wednesday of going on Sean Hannity’s radio show in an attempt to win back conservative Twitter users. On Twitter, pro-Trump Twitter users are increasingly registering their discontent with Dorsey by adding a red “X” emoji to their account names to claim they’re being “shadow-banned.”

Like the frog emoji before it—a reference to Pepe the Frog—the X has become a ubiquitous symbol in MAGA Twitter, while baffling everyone else.

Now, with InfoWars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones kicked off YouTube and Facebook (but not Twitter), the “X” has become a symbol internet-wide for conservatives who claim they’re being squeezed out of the major social media platforms.

The “X” push started in late June, when two German Twitter users, including one who identifies himself as a supporter of a far-right political party, created a website they claimed could tell whether individual Twitter handles had been subjected to “quality filter discrimination,” which Twitter claims makes it harder to find or engage with a user’s tweets.

Conservatives claimed that that amounts to a “shadow-ban,” a long-standing point of contention between Twitter and right-wing Twitter users. While other conservative figures—including undercover video provocateur James O’Keefe—had argued in the past that Twitter “shadow-banned” accounts, even as Twitter denied that it did, the new shadow-ban-testing site claimed to offer proof to Twitter users who felt their accounts were being hidden for political reasons.

Users who visited the site and were told their accounts were shadow-banned were urged to add the X to their display names on Twitter.

“Many affected users have included a red ❌ in their Twitter name,” the site reads. “Not only as a personal statement, but also to show how many censored users there are.”

Since then, various accusations of shadow-banning have come to dominate the right’s conversation about social networks. In late July, Donald Trump tweeted about the alleged shadow-banning, declaring it “illegal.” All that has brought more attention to the red “X,” spreading it across MAGA-world.

While the “X” has caught on with rank-and-file Trump supporters on Twitter, it’s also been embraced by various conservative personalities and outlets, including the Twitter accounts for right-wing provocateur Laura Loomer, Breitbart tech reporter Allum Bokhari, and YouTube rival Bitchute.

Even Rep. Devin Nunes has gotten in on it, periodically tweeting out allegations about shadow-bans with the red “X.”

Twitter has repeatedly denied practicing shadow-banning, claiming that any conservative accounts that get caught up in efforts to downrank their content are only being caught by algorithms focused on user behavior. On Wednesday, Dorsey claimed that the algorithms are aimed at Twitter accounts that “unfairly amplify” their content, among other behaviors.

Still, Republicans remain eager to launch more investigations into the supposed “shadow-banning.” On Thursday, Rep. Jim Jordan called for Dorsey to appear at a congressional hearing in September on the allegations.

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The replies to Jordan’s tweet quickly filled with conservative Twitter users who agreed with him—many of them sporting the red “X” in their names.