Following recent reports from both conservative and left-wing media relating to the phenomenon of the shadowbanning of conservatives on its platform, Twitter has published a response which attempts to redefine exactly what shadowbanning is.
Shadowbanning is the act of limiting the tweets that can be seen from a particular user, meaning that a shadowbanned user could tweet ten times a day and their followers may never see any of the tweets in their timeline, but they could see the tweets if they visited the shadowbanned accounts profile directly. Other shadowban techniques involve hiding accounts from searches, or making the user’s tweets disappear behind a “quality filter.”
The aim with this method is that a users tweets could be effectively suppressed from the platform without them realizing and without outright banning the user. Twitter has attempted to redefine what shadow banning means in an attempt to deflect criticism of the practice.
In a post to the Twitter blog, Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s legal, policy and trust & safety lead and Kavyon Beykpour, Twitter’s product lead and co-founder of livestreaming app Periscope, discussed the issue of shadow banning in a post titled “Setting the Record Straight on Shadow Banning.” In the post, Twitter states:
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.
In this line, Twitter has attempted to re-define what shadow banning means by claiming that they are not outright censoring accounts and that a user can still see tweets from a specific account if they search out that account’s profile. No one has claimed that shadowbanning means a user’s tweets are censored entirely from the platform, shadowbanning is exactly what Twitter has just described in that post. Suppressing tweets from a specific account so that their followers must search out the account profile in order to see its content. Twitter’s attempt to define shadowbanning in the same way popular forums site Reddit has is merely dancing around the issue.
Breitbart Tech’s Allum Bokhari discussed Twitter’s tendency to claim ignorance when called out for their tactics in a recent article. Bokhari wrote: “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.”
What Twitter has described in their blog post is specifically the “shadow” element to shadow banning. They are consistently suppressing the tweets from certain accounts so that the accounts followers must jump through extra hoops to find that accounts tweets. In this way, Twitter can prevent the shadowbanned account from spreading their message while claiming that they haven’t outright censored them as their account still exists on the platform.
Twitter’s stock dropped by more than 18 percent in morning trading today, much of this is to do with the company’s poor monthly active user numbers but the recent scandals surrounding the issue of shadow banning could possibly account for some of the companies sudden stock price drop.
President Trump’s recent tweet about the companies shadow banning practices certainly would not have helped their stock price:
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