Twitter on Thursday addressed the recent controversy surrounding the shadowbanning of high-profile conservatives, admitting users’ posts will be hidden if they follow the wrong accounts.
In a blog post published Thursday, Twitter’s Legal, Policy and Trust & Safety Lead Vijaya Gadde and Kayvon Beykpour, the company’s Product Lead, offer up a convoluted explanation as to why conservatives are discriminated on the platform. “We do not shadow ban,” they claim. Instead, they write that Twitter deploys a series of “ranking models,” taking “many signals into consideration to best organize tweets for timely relevance.” The purpose of ranking tweets and search results is to best facilitate what the San Francisco-based company defines as a healthy conversation, an initiative launched in March “to improve the health of the public conversation” on the platform.
Beykpour and Gadde’s post comes after left-leaning news outlet Vice reported on the issue of shadowbanning — a topic Breitbart News’ Tech team has covered in great depth over the past year. Vice News reporter Alex Thompson wrote this week that Twitter is hiding the accounts of leading Conservative figures:
The Republican Party chair Ronna McDaniel, several conservative Republican congressmen, and Donald Trump Jr.’s spokesman no longer appear in the auto-populated drop-down search box on Twitter, VICE News has learned. It’s a shift that diminishes their reach on the platform — and it’s the same one being deployed against prominent racists to limit their visibility. The profiles continue to appear when conducting a full search, but not in the more convenient and visible drop-down bar. (The accounts appear to also populate if you already follow the person.)
A spokesperson for Twitter told Vice that their algorithms were not developed to discriminate based on political beliefs. “We are aware that some accounts are not automatically populating in our search box and shipping a change to address this,” the spokesperson told the left-wing outlet. “I’d emphasize that our technology is based on account *behavior* not the content of Tweets.”
Breitbart News Senior Tech Correspondent Allum Bokhari notes the company has continually avoided transparency on the issue: “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,” Bokhari adds.
The blog post goes on to say Twitter’s ranking model is allegedly designed to identify “bad-faith actors” — who they claim are engaged in divisive or manipulative discourse — and penalized such users with a lower ranking. Furthermore, the Silicon Valley behemoth says it partly determines whether a user is a positive contributor to the platform’s “conversational health,” by what actions they take, including who one follows and retweets.
In May, Twitter acknowledged it was examining how users were “connected” to those who violate the platform’s terms of service. “These signals will now be considered in how we organize and present content in communal areas like conversation and search,” the company said.
The topic of shadowbanning has made it all the way to the White House, with President Donald Trump vowing to immediately investigate the “discriminatory and illegal practice.”
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
Whether the Trump administration or Congress will take action against shadowbanning of conservatives remains to be seen, but focus on the discriminatory practice will likely grow as the midterm elections draw near.