Hageman Blasts University For Monitoring Her Twitter Posts For “Toxicity”

Harriet Hageman said a North Dakota university's decision to monitor her Twitter account represents the "unholy triumvirate of academia, mainstream press, and Big Tech coming together to squelch free speech."

Leo Wolfson

October 28, 20223 min read

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By Leo Wolfson, State Politics Reporter

U.S. congressional candidate Harriet Hageman is outraged that university researchers are looking at her Twitter posts as part of a study of “toxic language” on the platform.

Fox News reports Hageman received an email from the North Dakota State University Center for the Study of Digital Society, informing her that it would be studying her posts as part of a study on the use Twitter by political candidates. Specifically, the study will analyze how the use of such language affects election outcomes. 

Hageman’s Response

Hageman’s Twitter rhetoric has been fairly vanilla compared to other candidates in the 2022 election cycle, mostly focused on criticizing President Joe Biden and publicizing her community engagement efforts.

“I’ll tell you what’s ‘toxic’ — trying to freeze free speech with ominous warnings that ‘we’re watching you’ from pointy-headed college professors and the leftist corporate media,” Hageman told Fox News Digital in a Friday story.

The NDSU group told Hageman it will publish its findings to the Monkey Cage section of The Washington Post, an independent website published within the Post that gives political scientists a forum to share their political analysis. 

What’s Toxic?

The researchers told Fox News it would rely on Google algorithms to determine which tweets are and are not toxic.

“We are using machine learning algorithms that have been trained to predict whether a typical person would find a social media post toxic to score post toxicity,” Daniel Pemstein, co-director of the Study of Digital Society, told Fox News. “The classifiers were developed and trained by computer scientists as general-purpose tools for detecting toxicity in online speech and do not reflect any personal researcher judgment. 

“Essentially, they reflect the average judgment of the regular people who coded a large corpus of text as toxic or not.”

Hageman sees this study as an invasion of her free speech.

“University faculty should encourage vigorous discussion of competing ideas, not try to shut them down before ideas are even expressed,” Hageman told Fox News Digital. “Here you have the unholy triumvirate of academia, the mainstream press, and Big Tech coming together to squelch free speech. This is exactly why people are fighting back against the establishment – they’re sick of being told what they can and can’t think.”

Free Speech

Her comments came on the same day Elon Musk worked his first day as the owner of Twitter. Many conservatives have seen this new ownership as a victory for free speech. The social media company has banned notable figures on the right for violating its policies for speech, such as former President Donald Trump, U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Georgia, musician Kanye West and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

West had his account reinstated Friday morning.

Trump launched his own social media platform, Truth Social, in October 2021 in an effort to combat what he said were unfair communication policies being implemented by Twitter and Facebook. Truth Social has been largely unsuccessful in overtaking those platforms. 

Hageman beat U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney is the August primary election. She is facing Democrat Lynette Grey Bull in the general election. Hageman is expected to win the race as an overwhelming number of Wyoming voters are Republicans. 

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter