Twitter owner Elon Musk dropped another batch of files exposing his predecessors for lying about the existence of the platform’s elusive shadowbanning operation.
Former New York Times editor Bari Weiss, who first reported on the second batch of Twitter files Dec. 8, noted that they show how Twitter employees “build blacklists, prevent disfavored tweets from trending, and actively limit the visibility of entire accounts or even trending topics—all in secret, without informing users.”
“Twitter executives have been lying to Congress and to the American public,” MRC Free Speech America Vice President Dan Schneider said. “This is an illegal fraud on all of us. DOJ, SEC, FTC and the FEC should immediately investigate for criminal and other violations of law.”
Weiss illustrated through snapshots how Twitter personalities like conservative radio host Dan Bongino, the popular Libs of TikTok account, Turning Point USA Founder Charlie Kirk and Stanford medicine professor Jay Bhattacharya were placed on a “Search Blacklist,” a “Do Not Amplify” list and a “Trends Blacklist,” respectively. The release of the documents blows up the gaslighting that ex-Twitter executives like former CEO Jack Dorsey and former General Counsel Vijaya Gadde have fed Americans for years that the platform does not shadowban people.
It appears the executives were lying.
1. A new #TwitterFiles investigation reveals that teams of Twitter employees build blacklists, prevent disfavored tweets from trending, and actively limit the visibility of entire accounts or even trending topics—all in secret, without informing users.— Bari Weiss (@bariweiss) December 9, 2022
Weiss summarized that “[w]hat many people call ‘shadow banning,’ Twitter executives and employees call ‘Visibility Filtering’ or ‘VF.’ Multiple high-level sources confirmed its meaning.”
In 2018, both Gadde and former Twitter Product Lead Kayvon Beykpour co-wrote a blog headlined: “Setting the record straight on shadow banning.”
The authors stated bluntly: “People are asking us if we shadow ban. We do not.” They continued: “And we certainly don’t shadow ban based on political viewpoints or ideology.” Beykpour even tweeted in 2018: “We don't ‘shadow ban.’”
We don't "shadow ban". Read more here 👇 https://t.co/qjv8LwW2P8— Kayvon Beykpour (@kayvz) July 27, 2018
The authors tried to create their own definition of shadowbanning as “deliberately making someone’s content undiscoverable to everyone except the person who posted it, unbeknownst to the original poster.”
Here’s the rub: That definition is remarkably parallel to the one reportedly used for the platform’s preferred term “Visibility Filtering.” According to Weiss, “‘Think about visibility filtering as being a way for us to suppress what people see to different levels. It’s a very powerful tool,’ one senior Twitter employee told us.”
She continued: “‘VF’ refers to Twitter’s control over user visibility. It used VF to block searches of individual users; to limit the scope of a particular tweet’s discoverability; to block select users’ posts from ever appearing on the ‘trending’ page; and from inclusion in hashtag searches. … All without users’ knowledge.”
It appears that Twitter created its own term for “shadowbanning” to avoid any admission that such operations existed.
Dorsey tweeted July 18, 2018 that “We don’t shadow ban, and we certainly don’t shadow ban based on political viewpoints.” He also reportedly called into conservative host Sean Hannity’s radio show in August 2018 and stated outright that “‘We do not shadow ban according to political ideology or viewpoint or content. Period.’”
Following up on this with a lot more detail. We don’t shadow ban, and we certainly don’t shadow ban based on political viewpoints. We do rank tweets by default to make Twitter more immediately relevant (which can be flipped off). More on ranking signals: https://t.co/ORjJfyBvhc— jack (@jack) July 27, 2018
However, Musk later agreed in 2022 that it was “correct” when conservative podcaster Dinesh D’Souza said that Twitter “[c]ensorship has been deployed as a one-way operation against conservatives.”
In fact, Musk directly confirmed that Twitter subjected even political candidates to shadowbanning while they were either running for office or seeking reelection.
Yes— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 9, 2022
But that’s not all. Weiss reported that an elite cabal of Twitter executives called the “Site Integrity Policy, Policy Escalation Support [SIP-PES]” made top-down decisions on shadowbans. The cabal included Dorsey, former Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal, Gadde and former Twitter Head of Trust and Safety Yoel Roth, who once spewed that the Trump Administration was full of “Nazis.”
“This is where the biggest, most politically sensitive decisions got made,” Weiss tweeted. “‘Think high follower account, controversial,’ another Twitter employee told us. For these ‘there would be no ticket or anything.’”
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