Representatives from both Twitter and Facebook denied engaging in “shadowbanning” in response to a question from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) t0day, although Twitter’s representative went on to describe practices that mirrors the covert censorship almost exactly.
“Does Twitter or Facebook engage in shadowbans?” asked Sen. Cruz, during today’s Senate judiciary committee hearing on technological censorship.
Turning to Twitter’s representative, Sen. Cruz said “you testified before, or you acknowledged that Twitter will downgrade a comment to make it less visible. Does Twitter notify a person if their comment has been downgraded?”
“If we have signals indicating that a person is being a spammy, meaning they are using multiple accounts to do the same, if they are doing automated activity but we’re not 100 percent sure that they are breaking our rules, if they’re abusive then what we will do is make it harder for that content to be found in a couple of different places – one is in search results, and the other is in conversations — the replies.”
Twitter’s spokesman would not reply on whether the platform notifies users when their comments are downgraded, instead promising to get back to Sen. Cruz on the topic.
“I believe the answer is ‘no’, and if the answer is ‘no, that, as far as I can tell, is all but indistinguishable from shadowbanning” said Sen. Cruz.
“At no point, sir, is a person’s followers unable to find what that person has tweeted,” said the Twitter spokesman.
“But if it’s downgraded so far fewer people see it, that is exactly what is being alleged on shadowbanning” responded the Senator.
Last summer, an investigation by the left-wing magazine Vice found that Twitter shadowbanned prominent Republicans, including Rep. Matt Gaetz and GOP chairwoman Ronna McDaniel in search results. Undercover journalism by Project Veritas also exposed Twitter employees speaking candidly about shadowbanning users.
Sen. Cruz seemed unconvinced that the Twitter spokesman’s description of his company’s policies did not amount to shadowbanning.