Twitter Officially Addresses The Whole ‘Shadow Banning’ Thing

Hannah Bleau

A few days ago, President Trump pledged to “look into” Twitter “shadow banning” conservatives.

I have no problem with people bringing attention to this, but at the same time, it’s not President Trump’s place, and it’s NOT illegal. It sucks, but the government has no business telling a private company what to do.

Go ahead and point out the reality of what’s happening– sure. Yes– the “algorithm shifts” seem to ALWAYS favor the left. Go ahead and draw attention to that, but it has to end there. This isn’t the government’s place.

ANYWAY. Twitter decided to address the whole “shadow banning” thing in a blog post, but instead of easing nerves, it actually kinda sorta confirmed that it is shadow banning certain people.

People are asking us if we shadow ban. We do not. But let’s start with, “what is shadow banning?”

The best definition we found is this: deliberately making someone’s content undiscoverable to everyone except the person who posted it, unbeknownst to the original poster.

We do not shadow ban. 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.

We do rank tweets and search results. We do this because Twitter is most useful when it’s immediately relevant. These ranking models take many signals into consideration to best organize tweets for timely relevance. We must also address bad-faith actors who intend to manipulate or detract from healthy conversation.

…although you may have to do more work to find them, like go directly to their profile.”

Isn’t that precisely what shadow banning entails, at least in part?

Twitter continued:

Yesterday, we identified an issue where some accounts weren’t auto-suggested in search even when people were searching for their specific name. To be clear, this only impacted our search auto-suggestions. The accounts, their tweets and surrounding conversation about those accounts were showing up in search results. As of yesterday afternoon, this issue was resolved.

Here’s more of their explanation:

“It looks like this only affected Republican politicians. Were Democratic politicians also impacted?” Yes, some Democratic politicians were not properly showing up within search auto-suggestions as result of this issue. As mentioned above, the issue was broad-ranging and not limited to political accounts or specific geographies. And most accounts affected had nothing to do with politics at all.

“OK, so there was a search auto-suggest issue. But what caused these Republican representatives to be impacted?” For the most part, we believe the issue had more to do with how other people were interacting with these representatives’ accounts than the accounts themselves (see bullet #3 above). There are communities that try to boost each other’s presence on the platform through coordinated engagement. We believe these types of actors engaged with the representatives’ accounts– the impact of this coordinated behavior, in combination with our implementation of search auto-suggestions, caused the representatives’ accounts to not show up in auto-suggestions. In addition to fixing search yesterday, we’re continuing to improve our system so it can better detect these situations and correct for them.

“…we believe the issue had more to do with how other people were interacting with these representatives’ accounts than the accounts themselves.”

They believe that, but they don’t really know.

Twitter’s response sounds like a whole lot of yada yada yada.

h/t The Right Scoop

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