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December 09, 2022

The Twitter Files, Part II: The Shadowban Protocols

Twitter repeatedly claimed they did not "shadowban" users.

Shadowbanning is a technique of banning someone without letting them know they're banned -- it's limiting the number of people who can see them. When they post, they can see their tweets, so it seems to them that they're not banned. A few of the friends they interact with the most can see their tweets.

But no one else can see their tweets. Hence, they've been banned, but stealthily. Under cover of shadow.

Twitter, through its repulsive chief censor and liar Vijaya Gadde, claimed repeatedly that Twitter simply does not shadowban.

It was yet another Right-Wing Conspiracy Theory, she seemed to be implying. After all, the right-wing was accusing her of shadowbanning their accounts, and she was saying Twitter has no such practice as shadowbanning -- must be those Right-Wing Disinformation Peddlers spreading toxic disinformation again.

And Vijaya Gadde also claimed Twitter specifically never shadowbanned based on political viewpoint!

That she had to deny that she shadowbanned at all, and then specify that she did not shadowban based on political viewpoint in particular, should have been a major tip-off.

Another tell of the liar: backsliding away from a definitive, absolute commitment into a more tenuous, limited claim. "I never saw this man before in my life. And furthermore, when I did see him, he was still alive."

So, below: Proof that Twitter has been shadowbanning people, and based on political views that they disapprove of.

Oh wait -- they don't call it "shadowbanning."

They call it: "visbility limitation."

I sure hope Vijaya Gadde didn't claim she didn't shadowban people in front of Congress, or in any legal depositions. Because I don't think that defense of "We don't call it 'shadowbanning,' we call it 'visibility limiting'" is going to hold up as a defense against a perjury charge."

This is also why conservatives had their growth frozen for years -- Twitter slapped other types of "visibility limiting" retrictions on them to make sure that few people saw their accounts, so that they could not gain followers. Charlie Kirk, for example, got hit with a "Do Not Amplify" restriction. This is undefined in this article, but from context, one can assume it means that Twitter will not permit him to trend even when the algorithm would naturally, without Twitter's censors' intervention, put him on the trending list.

Bari Weiss @bariweiss

THREAD: THE TWITTER FILES PART TWO.

TWITTER'S SECRET BLACKLISTS.

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.

2. Twitter once had a mission "to give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers." Along the way, barriers nevertheless were erected.


shadowbanfirstwo.jpg

Charlie Kirk was also shadowbanned with a "Do Not Amplify" restriction.

Bari Weiss @bariweiss

6. Twitter denied that it does such things. In 2018, Twitter's Vijaya Gadde (then Head of Legal Policy and Trust) and Kayvon Beykpour (Head of Product) said: "We do not shadow ban." They added: "And we certainly don't shadow ban based on political viewpoints or ideology."

7. What many people call "shadow banning," Twitter executives and employees call "Visibility Filtering" or "VF." Multiple high-level sources confirmed its meaning.

8. "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.

9. "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.

10. All without users' knowledge.

11. "We control visibility quite a bit. And we control the amplification of your content quite a bit. And normal people do not know how much we do," one Twitter engineer told us. Two additional Twitter employees confirmed.

12. The group that decided whether to limit the reach of certain users was the Strategic Response Team - Global Escalation Team, or SRT-GET. It often handled up to 200 "cases" a day.

13. But there existed a level beyond official ticketing, beyond the rank-and-file moderators following the company's policy on paper. That is the "Site Integrity Policy, Policy Escalation Support," known as "SIP-PES."

14. This secret group included Head of Legal, Policy, and Trust (Vijaya Gadde), the Global Head of Trust & Safety (Yoel Roth), subsequent CEOs Jack Dorsey and Parag Agrawal, and others.

15. This is where the biggest, most politically sensitive decisions got made. "Think high follower account, controversial," another Twitter employee told us. For these "there would be no ticket or anything."

shadowbanlibsoftiktok.jpg

17. The account--which Chaya Raichik began in November 2020 and now boasts over 1.4 million followers--was subjected to six suspensions in 2022 alone, Raichik says. Each time, Raichik was blocked from posting for as long as a week.

18. Twitter repeatedly informed Raichik that she had been suspended for violating Twitter's policy against "hateful conduct."

19. But in an internal SIP-PES memo from October 2022, after her seventh suspension, the committee acknowledged that "LTT has not directly engaged in behavior violative of the Hateful Conduct policy." See here:

twitterruleslibsotiktok.jpg

20. The committee justified her suspensions internally by claiming her posts encouraged online harassment of "hospitals and medical providers" by insinuating "that gender-affirming healthcare is equivalent to child abuse or grooming."

21. Compare this to what happened when Raichik herself was doxxed on November 21, 2022. A photo of her home with her address was posted in a tweet that has garnered more than 10,000 likes.

22. When Raichik told Twitter that her address had been disseminated she says Twitter Support responded with this message: "We reviewed the reported content, and didn't find it to be in violation of the Twitter rules." No action was taken. The doxxing tweet is still up.

A link to that message, in which Twitter effectively declares that doxxing Raichik is allowed by Twitter because Twitter doesn't like her, is here. It blows the margins, so I won't embed it.

23. In internal Slack messages, Twitter employees spoke of using technicalities to restrict the visibility of tweets and subjects. Here's Yoel Roth, Twitter's then Global Head of Trust & Safety, in a direct message to a colleague in early 2021:

That image also tests the boundaries of the margins.

24. Six days later, in a direct message with an employee on the Health, Misinformation, Privacy, and Identity research team, Roth requested more research to support expanding "non-removal policy interventions like disabling engagements and deamplification/visibility filtering."

Link, again.

25. Roth wrote: "The hypothesis underlying much of what we've implemented is that if exposure to, e.g., misinformation directly causes harm, we should use remediations that reduce exposure, and limiting the spread/virality of content is a good way to do that."

26. He added: "We got Jack on board with implementing this for civic integrity in the near term, but we're going to need to make a more robust case to get this into our repertoire of policy remediations -- especially for other policy domains."

She then links a site where she and other reporters will be posting more. That site is currently down, whether due to too much traffic or a DDS attack.

28. The authors have broad and expanding access to Twitter’s files. The only condition we agreed to was that the material would first be published on Twitter.

29. We're just getting started on our reporting. Documents cannot tell the whole story here. A big thank you to everyone who has spoken to us so far. If you are a current or former Twitter employee, we'd love to hear from you. Please write to: tips@thefp.com

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posted by Ace at 01:40 PM

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