Elon Musk's Twitter has been accused of limiting the visibility of a Twitter account belonging to Tom Van Grieken, the leader of the Flemish separatist party Vlaams Belang. (Photo by Donato Fasano/Getty Images)


Twitter allegedly ‘shadow-bans’ Belgian party leader ahead of new EU digital law


Elon Musk’s Twitter, now X, has been accused of limiting the visibility of a Twitter account, known as “shadow banning”, belonging to Tom Van Grieken, the leader of the Flemish separatist party Vlaams Belang.

The alleged action against the account comes ahead of the European Union’s Digital Services Act (DSA) coming into force at the end of August, with the measure obliging a number of social media platforms to censor content Brussels deems problematic.

In a statement sent to Brussels Signal, Van Grieken claimed that Twitter had partially hidden his account from being searched for on the platform after he posted about gang violence in the Flemish town of Zelzate.

Third-party software appears to indicate that the senior politician’s account has been put under a so-called “search suggestion ban”, which prevents an account from showing up on the platform when searched for by logged-out users.

Brussels Signal was also unable to embed tweets made by Van Grieken into articles at the time of writing, with attempts to get an embed link for such posts being met with a “not found” from Twitter.

According to the party leader, the censorship seems to have been brought about by left-wing activists’ mass-reporting his account on the platform.

“This is just a new way to silence political opponents,” he said. “The ‘tolerant’ Left is once again showing its true nature.”

He added that the mass reporting would not prevent him or his party from “denouncing violence, including that committed by immigrants”.

Van Grieken added that he has “every confidence” that the limitations on his account are “temporary” and that the social media platform would “rectify this as soon as possible”.

Issues of censorship are likely to be out of Twitter’s hands in the near future though, with the site to fall under the remit of the DSA in just over a week’s time.

Having been designated a “very large online platform” by Brussels, Twitter, now X, will soon be required to implement additional rules and procedures as dictated by Eurocrats.

These include restricting so-called “disinformation” and “hate speech” on the website, something that many fear will lead to widespread political censorship.

Platforms under the remit of the DSA that dare to ignore the EU censorship rules face heavy fines, with the European Commission reserving the right to have any platform removed from the European internet entirely.

Internal market Commissioner Thierry Breton has even bragged that he and his colleagues will have the power to pull “problematic” social media platforms from the EU net within a matter of hours if they are judged to be breaking the new rules.

He has since insisted that the EU fully supports free speech but “also stands by” its right to cut off social media firms when they allow speech the EC disagrees with.

“Rather than relying on platforms’ good will, the EU has chosen to organise the digital space with clear rights, obligations and safeguards,” he said, arguing the measures are necessary to “protect” Europeans.