Yesterday, far-left outlet Vice finally acknowledged a story that Breitbart News has been reporting on for over a year: that conservatives are being “shadowbanned,” or covertly censored, by Twitter.
Twitter’s response has been to play dumb, and claim that the shadowbans — which prevent search results appearing for the names of prominent Republicans and conservatives (among other things) — are a result of errors, not design.
But a close analysis of Twitter’s own public statements reveal that the company’s Orwellian, vaguely-defined mission to improve the “health” of “public conversations” led to a system that allows the left to abuse the platform’s algorithm in order to suppress their political opponents.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey acknowledged that the platform’s sinister “conversational health” agenda was responsible for the suppression of top Republicans in search results, but he didn’t say how. But clues can be found in the post the company published to promote the new policy:
To put this in context, fewer than 1% of accounts make up the majority of accounts reported for abuse, but a lot of what’s reported does not violate our rules. While still a small overall number, these accounts have a disproportionately large – and negative – impact on people’s experience on Twitter. The challenge for us has been: how can we proactively address these disruptive behaviors that do not violate our policies but negatively impact the health of the conversation?
There are many new signals we’re taking in, most of which are not visible externally. Just a few examples include if an account has not confirmed their email address, if the same person signs up for multiple accounts simultaneously, accounts that repeatedly Tweet and mention accounts that don’t follow them, or behavior that might indicate a coordinated attack. We’re also looking at how accounts are connected to those that violate our rules and how they interact with each other.
These signals will now be considered in how we organize and present content in communal areas like conversation and search.
[emphasis Breitbart News’]
Twitter thinks tweets have a “negative impact” on the experience of using their platform if users encounter content that they report for abuse, even if those reports are bogus. Twitter is also “looking” at accounts that are connected to those that allegedly violate the platform’s rules. This inevitably leads to a bias against the right.
Prominent left-wing activists have hair-trigger definitions of “abuse,” previously describing mild criticism like “you suck” and “you’re a liar” as a form of “cyberviolence”. Right-wing Twitter accounts are more likely to be banned and more likely to be blocked by left-wing Twitter users. If Twitter considers reports (even bogus ones), blocks, and connections to rule-violating accounts to be relevant indicators of a negative impact on “conversational health,” then the right will inevitably face more censorship in search results than the left.
And that’s exactly what’s happened. Even left-wing rags like Vice and Gizmodo admit it.
By looking to indicators like frequency of reports and connections to rule-violating accounts, Twitter has created a feedback loop that rewards its users for false “abuse” reports. The more you report your political opponents’ tweets, and the more you get them and their friends suspended, the more Twitter will downrank their content in search results. It’s a system designed to reward precisely the kind of disingenuous, censorious behavior that the left’s online activists have been engaged in for years.
It’s impossible to believe that Twitter didn’t know exactly what they were doing. This is the same company whose CEO says he wants A.I. to determine “credible voices,” and whose employees boast of shadowbanning and censoring accounts that talk too much about “God, guns and America.”
There’s at least one known fan of God, guns, and America that they might find difficult to censor, though.
Twitter “SHADOW BANNING” prominent Republicans. Not good. We will look into this discriminatory and illegal practice at once! Many complaints.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2018