On Thursday, Twitter attempted to quell rumors of shadowbanning of conservatives — rumors backed by a VICE report showing that top-tier conservatives including Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel had seen their twitter handles downgraded in search results. Vijaya Gadde, the company’s legal, policy, trust and safety lead, and Kayvon Beykpour, the product lead, explained that everyone was getting the shadowbanning policy completely wrong.
The best definition we found is this: deliberately making someone’s content undiscoverable to everyone except the person who posted it, unbeknownst to the original poster.
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.
So, just to get this straight, Twitter’s argument is that they aren’t preventing you from seeing the tweets of people you follow — they’re just requiring you to visit their Twitter pages directly. Which is shadowbanning.
Well done, guys.
Trust in social media has plummeted like a rock over the past three years. With the Left complaining that conservatives have taken advantage of social media, along with the Russians and fake news outlets, social media have responded with a restrictive crackdown that has broadly harmed conservative people and outlets; this has prompted cries of bias from the Right. Meanwhile, social media have undergone a severe round of bad press following supposed revelations that information has been used for marketing purposes.
John Sexton makes a great point regarding Twitter’s argument that it bases its quasi-shadowbanning on behavior rather than politics:
Twitter says it doesn’t look at content when it downgrades accounts, it looks at behavior. But if the left is more censorious by nature than the right, the result is going to be more conservative accounts in the shadow banning lite category. That’s a de facto partisan advantage for the left, even if it’s been arrived at without looking at content.
Twitter didn’t do itself any favors with this response. The company’s lack of transparency has damned it in the eyes of many users, and that’s likely to get worse before it gets better.