Republican Representative Joe Barton grilled Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey on the shadowbanning of 600,000 Twitter accounts during a hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee today.
During a hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Republican Representative Joe Barton (R-TX) grilled Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey about the 600,000 accounts that were reportedly shadowbanned on Twitter due to an error. Barton questioned the political affiliation of the banned accounts and why the error caused Twitter to change their shadowbanning related policies.
Barton began his opening statement by joking that Dorsey did not look how he expected the CEO of Twitter to look, he then began questioning some of the companies shadowbanning practices. Barton stated: “In a July blog post, your company Twitter indicated that some Democrat politicians were not properly showing up within search autosuggestions. In other words, your company said that your algorithms were somewhat discriminatory against Democrats. Can you identify which Democrat representatives and accounts were not properly showing up?”
Dorsey replied that Twitter generally doesn’t share what accounts were affected in efforts to protect their privacy but stated that he could follow up with Barton’s staff. Barton asked Dorsey if he could identify how many Democrat accounts were affected to which Dorsey also said he would follow up with Barton’s staff.
“Can you personally vouch that the statement is a true statement, that there are Democrat politicians that when you did the autosearch they didn’t show up?” Dorsey replied that he could but the issue affected 600,000 accounts not just Democrat ones. “No no, there were 600,000 accounts affected but how many Democrat versus Republican accounts? Because the allegation that we make, the Republicans, is that you’re discriminatory against us, against the Republicans. Your post says ‘well there was some Democrat politicians too,’ so out of 600,000 if there were 1,000 Republicans and ten Democrats it still seems somewhat biased, if it’s 50/50 then that’s a whole different ball game.”
Dorsey replied: “We agree that the result was not impartial and that is why we corrected it and fixed it.” Barton asked Dorsey if he admitted that more Republicans than Democrats were affected by the shadowbanning issue, “I didn’t say that,” replied Dorsey. “Well you can’t have it both ways sir, it’s either 50/50 or one side is disproportionately affected and the allegation is that more Republicans were affected,” replied Barton.
Dorsey said that it can be hard for Twitter to identify if accounts are Republicans or Democrats to which Barton replied: “Well usually it’s known because we run as Republicans or Democrats that’s not hard to identify.” Dorsey stated that he would be happy to follow up with Barton’s staff on the issue.
Barton asked Dorsey whether Twitter discriminates more based around philosophy such as “anti-conservatives versus pro-liberal,” to which Dorsey replied that they did not. “Our policies and our algorithms don’t take into consideration any affiliation, philosophy or viewpoint.” Barton replied: “That’s hard to stomach, we wouldn’t be having this discussion if there wasn’t a general agreement that your company has discriminated against conservatives, most of whom happen to be Republican.”
Dorsey stated that he believes that Twitter has found “impartial outcomes” and those are what Twitter intends to fix and continue to measure.
Watch the full livestream of the event here.