Twitter Censorship: What Is Shadow Banning?

Following the reveal that Twitter shadow bans certain users by the Project Veritas investigative journalism team, Breitbart Tech would like to explain exactly what shadow banning is.

Breitbart Tech has previously explained the concept of shadow banning, a method by which Twitter silences users that they don’t want to appear in their follower’s timelines. This is a technique used regularly to silence conservative voices without outright banning them which could cause a larger PR problem for Twitter. This is the definition of shadow banning from our previous Breitbart Tech article:

Shadow banning, sometimes known as “Stealth Banning” or “Hell Banning,” is commonly used by online community managers to block content posted by spammers. Instead of banning a user directly (which would alert the spammer to their status, prompting them to create a new account), their content is merely hidden from public view.

For site owners, the ideal shadowban is when a user never realizes he’s been shadowbanned.

Twitter and other platforms such have Reddit have twisted shadow banning from a tool to fight spammers into a tool to prevent tweets and content from spreading naturally. Followers do not see tweets from the shadow banned individual in their timeline, and therefore do not engage with the tweets by responding, liking, or retweeting them. The shadow banned user is essentially tweeting to themselves, unless a follower directly visits their account.

Former Twitter software engineer Abhinav Vadrevu, as recorded by Project Veritas, confirmed that Twitter was doing this or had at some point done it in the past. Vadrevu told Project Veritas,

The idea of a shadow ban is that you ban someone but they don’t know they’ve been banned, because they keep posting but no one sees their content. So they just think that no one is engaging with their content, when in reality, no one is seeing it.

But at the end of the day, no one else interacts… No one else sees what you’re doing. So, all that data is just thrown away. It’s risky though. Because people will figure that shit out and be like… You know, it’s a lot of bad press if, like, people figure out that you’re like shadow banning them. It’s like, unethical in some way. You know? So, I don’t know.

In the past people have been really, really pissed off about that. And even people who haven’t been shadow banned have called it, like, a really terrible thing to do. So, yeah, it’s a risky strategy.

I definitely know Reddit does this, but I don’t know if Twitter does this anymore.

Telling if an account has been shadow banned is extremely difficult, because the user’s profile acts exactly the same for the user. Many shadow banned users may not be aware they’re shadow banned until their followers inform them that they’re no longer seeing their tweets in their timeline. Breitbart Tech’s previous source claimed that Twitter was doing this on a regular basis:

According to the source, Twitter maintains a ‘whitelist’ of favored Twitter accounts and a ‘blacklist’ of unfavored accounts. Accounts on the whitelist are prioritized in search results, even if they’re not the most popular among users. Meanwhile, accounts on the blacklist have their posts hidden from both search results and other users’ timelines.

Whether this practice is still in use is currently unknown.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan_ or email him at lnolan@breitbart.com


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