Conservatives skeptical of Twitter’s latest shadow-banning denial
July 27, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Twitter has released an official response to the latest round of shadow-banning allegations, but the statement has failed to impress conservative, Christian, and pro-life voices affected by the practice.
On Thursday, LifeSiteNews covered a Vice News report accusing the social media company of hiding the accounts of several prominent Republicans from its drop-down menu that’s supposed to simplify searching for specific people. The victims’ Democratic counterparts did not appear to be affected. Twitter denied any political intent, and fixed the issue within a day.
Twitter has since published a blog post by Trust & Safety lead Vijaya Gadde and product lead Kayvon Beykpour, flatly denying that they engage in “shadow-banning” (the unofficial term for limiting a profile’s visibility without notifying the profile holder).
The post explained that Twitter simply “rank[s] tweets and search results” to ensure content is “immediately relevant” and addresses “bad-faith actors who intend to manipulate or detract from healthy conversation.” The first two criteria for this process are relatively straightforward: the interests of the searcher and the popularity of particular tweets.
The third criterion, however, is much more subjective: assigning lower rankings based on whether a Twitter user “intend[s] to manipulate or divide the conversation.” Such tweets are determined based on whether an account appears to be a real person (as determined via email addresses, profile pictures, etc.), whom it follows and retweets, and how other accounts mute, follow, block, or retweet it.
As for the wrongly-affected Republicans, Twitter claims their disappearance from the drop-down search was an unintentional result of “communities that try to boost each other’s presence on the platform through coordinated engagement.”
“We do not shadow ban,” Gadde and Beykpour declared. “You are always able to see the tweets from accounts you follow (although you may have to do more work to find them, like go directly to their profile). And we certainly don’t shadow ban based on political viewpoints or ideology.”
Their explanation did not convince many conservatives, with many highlighting the “more work to find them” line for ridicule.
Twitter’s latest explanation for their algorithm amounts to “bury[ing] Republicans for something totally out of their control,” the Daily Caller’s Peter Hasson noted. “Twitter’s algorithm likely suppressed the Republican congressmen because the wrong accounts ‘engaged’ with theirs, they said.”
At Breitbart, John Nolte wrote that Twitter’s explanation effectively admitted that, “although you have gone to the trouble of following someone’s Twitter account, and have done so specifically because you want to read their tweets, Twitter is interfering in this process.”
“How are you supposed to know to look at somebody’s profile to check on their tweets when Twitter is shadow banning their tweets, banning from your feed the tweets you specifically requested to see?” he asked. “How are you supposed to know you are missing what you can’t see, what you don’t even know is out there? How are you supposed to find new people to follow, expose yourself to new ideas?”
Both Hasson and Nolte faulted Twitter for essentially playing a semantics game, avoiding the shadow-banning charge by defining “shadow-banning” more narrowly than it is commonly understood. Many observers agreed [language warning]:
So, @Jack - a "vibrant and healthy public conversation inclusive of all perspectives" means BLOCKING pro-life voices from advertising, asking us to delete our tweets and website content, and suppressing our message? @Twitter - unblock @LiveAction and @LilaGraceRose. https://t.co/suXXVMhsi2— Live Action (@LiveAction) July 27, 2018
No, we don't do "shadow banning!" It's just that we hide some people's Tweets unless you go looking for them. Also, we don't strangle people, but breathing might take a little more effort with our hands around your throat. https://t.co/YoxLZ18X7E— John Hayward (@Doc_0) July 27, 2018
The more I think about this new @Twitter explanation, the more obnoxious it becomes. I decide to follow someone to see their tweets in my time-line. Twitter (silently) decides for me it's best if I don't see them, unless I go to their page (making the following feature pointless)— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) July 27, 2018
"We don't shadowban.. we just hide people's tweets from search, the general feed, and.. well, everywhere except their profile page."— Danger Casey (@CaseySoftware) July 27, 2018
(just barely a paraphrasing..) https://t.co/6pJIP88egE
I was skeptical of the accusation that Twitter is shadowbanning until I saw their explanation, where they clearly admitted that yes, they are shadowbanning, they're just pretending that the term means something else. It's an insult to our intelligence. https://t.co/RZel9pCFZ1— Jeff B. (@EsotericCD) July 27, 2018
You remove users from the Public feed, searches, and Who To Follow. You base this on whether other users block/mute, not based on content. Saying someone is still visible to their existing followers but hidden from the Public is still banning.— Mike Valletutti, CTA (@marketmodel) July 27, 2018
This is far from the first allegation of political censorship to hit the social media platform, and in fact Twitter insiders have previously been caught on video admitting that they shadow-banned conservative users. Twitter insiders have also admitted to Congress to censoring hashtags of interest to conservatives during the 2016 election.
In addition, the company has attempted to block a number of pro-life advertisements, allows left-wing groups such as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and pro-homosexual GLAAD to advise it on “trust and safety” issues, and enlists the anti-Christian group Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to help weed out “hateful conduct and harassment.”
On Wednesday, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-FL, told the Daily Caller that he’s currently mulling whether to file a Federal Election Commission (FEC) complaint against Twitter for their actions.
“I am contemplating a complaint with the FEC, because if my political opponents have better access to the Twitter platform than I do, that’s no different than a private company giving my political opponents access to a billboard or television time or radio time,” he explained. “That wouldn’t be equal. So I believe that Twitter may have illegally donated to the campaigns of my opponents by prejudicing against my content.”
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