“It’s been exhausting, frankly,” Kathy Shell-Amidon told me. “I’m mad as hell.”
Amidon is a conservative activist. She worked alongside David Rosler, who for a time used the pseudonym Proe Graphique because he worked in the film industry, and created the Tea Party Fire Ants in 2013 to whip up online support for conservative causes. Amidon describes Rosler as a “brilliant strategist.” Now, they’re seeking funding for what Amidon describes as a new genre of exciting 3D Christian movies geared towards Millennials. She has been his associate producer since 2016, but has recently helped organize a series of pro-Trump music rallies, which will soon debut.
Naturally, Amidon has attempted to use social media to bolster her projects. Initially it worked – until Twitter became wise to she and Rosler’s activism, all the way back in 2013.
“Once we found Twitter in 2013, David figured out immediately how to use it as an activist platform,” Amidon said.
That same year, their group of grassroots volunteers in the Fire Ants first used the platform to help then-Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) garner support for House Resolution 36 to form the House Select Committee on Benghazi, which would eventually investigate the Benghazi attack. When they began their efforts, Wolf had 33 cosponsors to open the committee. He needed more than 150.
So, the Fire Ants went to work on Twitter, coordinating tweet campaigns wherein they tweeted to Republican House Representatives en masse, encouraging them to join the committee. There were seven or eight of them in the group using Twitter to communicate with the elected officials. Eventually, Wolf would give the group credit for the committee’s launch. They became friendly with the House Reps, and worked for hours each contacting them.
Amidon said their crusade caused the group to be “bombarded by trolls and defamed all over the internet.” One of the trolls, Amidon said, even worked for Twitter. She said she has been doxxed, which led to death threats. But none of that stopped the efficacy of their campaign – and apparently the Twitter brass took notice.
Two years later, in early 2015, the Fire Ants used the same tactics amass support for a bill that would have defined the term “high crimes and misdemeanors,” which was an attempt by Republican lawmakers to quantify what they believed were impeachable offenses of the Obama administration.
But this time, instead of just being attacked by leftist trolls, they noticed a significant drop in the efficacy of their tactics. All of a sudden, according to Amidon, their Tweets weren’t reaching the House Reps.
“Nobody could see us,” Amidon said. “And that was right before they coined the term ‘shadowbanning.'”
Amidon said they called several of the House Reps, many of whom were familiar with their online activism. They spoke to the communications directors of the elected officials, who confirmed that the tweets from the Fire Ants never made it into the notifications of the Reps’ accounts. Amidon said when they searched for the tweets on the feeds of the Fire Ants who had sent them, though, they were readily apparent.
This appears to be the origin of the tactic commonly called “shadowbanning.” Naturally, Amidon said, they were brushed off as conspiracists.
“Talking about Twitter censorship? You’re a conspiracy theorist,” she said. “We said, ‘no, you’re next.'”
And she appears to have been correct. Complaints of shadowbanning and other forms of censorship on Twitter, and among the other tech giants, have only become more prominent.
Amidon accused Twitter of “interfering criminally with Republicans trying to contact their elected officials.”
The extent of the damage goes well beyond internet activism, too. The leftist mob that was unleashed on Amidon, Rosler, and the Fire Ants has affected their personal lives significantly. They’ve tried unsuccessfully to identify those who have targeted them, though they have some idea of who they believe is coordinating the attacks.
“We’ve been after these people for six years,” Amidon said. “They’ve blocked our ability to crowdfund. They ruined my life. They’ve ruined David’s career. They’ve ruined us financially. They’ve done stuff to us in real life, too. They hacked my email account.”
Still, the group persists.
Four of the original Fire Ants are now fighting on behalf of Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ)’s “Stop the Censorship Act,” which, as the name suggests, is an attempt to stop Big Tech from de-platforming conservatives online. Amidon said the Fire Ants are facing the same problems today that they faced in 2015 and 2013.
According to Amidon, the censorship has become even more sophisticated, stopping the group from sending tweets altogether. A video posted to YouTube appears to show Twitter blocking the account of one of Amidon’s team members from tweeting at Rep. Tom Rice (R-SC).
Twitter did not respond to a comment request.
Rosler is now focused on finding investors for his Christian movie project. Amidon is not the associate producer for Rosler’s upcoming film, but encourages everyone to help support the project. You can go to roslerstudios.com to find more information, and email email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org to help.
Peter D'Abrosca is a freelance investigative reporter, author, and conservative political commentator.
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