While Democrat lawmakers squealed about a “right-wing conspiracy theory” at Jack Dorsey’s testimony on social media censorship Wednesday, Republicans rolled out a laundry list of examples of Twitter’s bias against conservative users.
One example stood out: the verification process.
Verification was initially intended to confirm the authenticity of an account. As Dorsey himself explained, it originated during a flu scare in 2009 to confirm that the CDC’s account was legitimate.
But Twitter now uses verification as a signal to determine whose tweets should be given more visibility in shared areas of the site, like conversations, search results, and hashtags. As the company admitted earlier this year, it has also become seen as a stamp of endorsement from the platform.
Verification was meant to authenticate identity & voice but it is interpreted as an endorsement or an indicator of importance. We recognize that we have created this confusion and need to resolve it. We have paused all general verifications while we work and will report back soon
— Twitter Support (@TwitterSupport) November 9, 2017
The reality of his platform’s two-tiered system slipped out during an exchange with Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL):
“The verified badge is a signal that is used in some of our algorithms to rank higher or to inject within shared areas of the – ”
“That was my next question” Rep. Shimkus interjected. “You do prioritize content shared by verified users, currently?”
“We do have signals that do that” admitted Dorsey.
Dorsey told lawmakers that the decision to verify or strip verification from an account was determined in part by their connection to “extremist” groups, a term that Twitter has failed to define.
Then there is world-famous racist and recent New York Times hire Sarah Jeong, who attracted international attention after conservative activists drew attention to her Twitter tirades against white people.
In one of the highlights of yesterday’s hearing, Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) read out some of Jeong’s most notorious tweets, including her descriptions of white people as “dogs pissing on fire hydrants” and “groveling goblins,” as well as her confession that she enjoys being “cruel to old white men.”
Rep. Mullin referenced Jeong in connection to the Twitter suspension of conservative activist Candace Owens, who was temporarily removed from the platform after she imitated Jeong’s tweets. As he did many times throughout the hearing, Dorsey mumbled that the suspension of Owens was a “mistake.”
But the real issue he failed to address was: why was Jeong verified in the first place, especially since she was verified after her tweets became the subject of international attention? Twitter didn’t even force her to delete their tweets or lock her account, as they have done to conservative users like actor Adam Baldwin over far more trivial posts.
Remember, verification has evolved into a seal of approval from Twitter. Dorsey and his team presumably do not believe that Jeong’s tweets harm the “conversational health” (another term Twitter has failed to define) of the platform, which he mentioned frequently throughout his testimony.
In addition to Jeong, Twitter has verified the anonymous account of the Sleeping Giants, a group of far-left, pro-censorship extremists whose goal is to put Breitbart News out of business by harassing its advertisers. In so doing, it is now clear from Mr. Dorsey’s testimony, Twitter is aiding and abetting an anonymous group to harass advertisers into boycotting Breitbart (and other conservative media).
It was only after considerable attention from conservative media that Twitter deverified the account of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, well known for his black supremacist and anti-semitic rants.
Democrats continue to call social media bias a “conspiracy theory,” but the examples of double standards continue to pile up.