S.E. Williams | BVN Staff

Republican Aja Smith is challenging incumbent Democrat Mark Takano to represent the 41st Congressional District which includes the inland communities of Moreno Valley, Perris, and Riverside.

Smith, a Black conservative and United States Air Force Veteran, recently spoke with the IE Voice and Black Voice News about her complaints against social media giants Facebook, Twitter and Google who she claims is purportedly using algorithms to limit activity on her social media accounts.

“I can attest that there is ample evidence that I am a victim of this illegal behavior by the companies,” said Smith. “For example, on Twitter, I have over 41,000 followers and I am specifically followed by over 10,000 users, but many of my posts receive minimal interaction . . .in the single digits.”

Smith alleged such limited interaction must be the result of a practice called shadow banning. Sometimes called stealth banning, ghost banning or comment ghosting, it has been described by some as the practice of secretly blocking or partially blocking political candidates so that it is not apparent to the candidate that he or she has been barred.

Smith’s allegations against the social media companies are detailed in a complaint she filed with U. S. Attorney General Bill Barr and the U.S. Department of Justice under the Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act) which states in part, “anything of value given to influence a federal election,” is considered a contribution for purposes of the Act.

Complaint to U.S. Attorney General William Barr

(Source: Aja Smith)

Smith shared her belief the suspected shadow banning of her posts benefits both social media companies and her competition and by default, she contended, provides illegal corporate contributions to federal political campaigns.

The issue of shadow banning has been a long-standing complaint by Republicans. It gained traction and national attention in 2018 when President Donald Trump tweeted in response to allegations Twitter was suppressing search results for the accounts of some Republicans.

Although Republicans claimed at the time Twitter’s search box did not auto-populate the names of prominent Republican Party members, the same also held true for well-known Democrats.

As described by the tech company www.howstuffworks.com, “At its best, shadow banning would theoretically cut out bot-type accounts or users who violate terms of service to improve the quality of its communities. At its worst, it might be a nearly invisible type of censorship … maybe to silence certain ideologies, or perhaps as a nefarious way for companies to insert more sponsored content posts (read: ads) in lieu of real people.”

What possibly makes the practice controversial is the nebulous understanding most have regarding how it is applied. This is because as noted by www.howstuffworks.com, algorithms are trade secrets, and thus, “[I]t’s not in the best interest of these companies to reveal their inner workings.”

As a result, users like candidate Smith are left to ponder and challenge what may really be happening when they do not receive a reasonable number of reactions to their postings.

This is because as noted above, when a person is shadow banned, they can post as usual and are unaware what they are posting is only visible to themselves. The benefit of this approach some say, is when a person does not know they are banned they are less likely to open a new account and instead will continue posting as before totally oblivious they are no longer reaching their desired audience. This is desirable for bot-type accounts or users who violate terms of service. But if on the other hand it is being used to silence candidates whose posts are within the realm of what’s acceptable discourse as Smith asserts—is it legal and/or appropriate?

“My campaign has the highest percentage of small donors of any campaign nationally,” said Smith. “My campaign depends on me being able to communicate to my supporters freely. The illegal behavior by the companies has real consequences, limiting my ability while providing a boost to my opponent.”

“With only weeks to go before the election, it is imperative that the illegal behavior by the companies be investigated and ended immediately,” she declared adding, “The companies are abusing their monopoly in the market to illegally support favored candidates and influence the outcome of elections.”

Despite this challenge Smith is moving full steam ahead in her quest to unseat incumbent Takano. This is her second foray into the political arena though she failed to make it out of the primaries during her last campaign, she successfully secured her spot as the Republican candidate for the 41st Congressional District this time around.

Smith said she was inspired to join the military and serve in the wake of 9/11. She also has an important legacy connection to the military as her grandfather was a veteran of WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, and her great uncle was a Tuskegee Airman pilot. As a veteran she has an intimate understanding of military base communities like the March Air Reserve Base.

Congressional Candidate Aja Smith

(Source: Aja Smith for Congress)

Raised in Moreno Valley by her mother and grandmother, Smith grew up embracing their conservative values. She was encouraged to make another run for public office despite her previous defeat because her beloved grandmother, who recently passed, encouraged her to do so.

Smith is committed to traditional conservative Republican priorities, including strong support of the military and the economy. She is also focused on jobs, especially as it relates to ensuring meaningful employment for the region’s veterans—an important priority for both parties.

If elected, she will be the first African American female Republican to serve in Congress from the State of California.

To learn more about Aja Smith and her bid for Congress visit https://www.ajasmithforcongress.com/.

S.E. Williams is editor of the IE Voice and Black Voice News.

Header Photo:Congressional Candidate Aja Smith (Source: Aja Smith for Congress)