At a congressional hearing on Twitter’s transparency and accountability on Wednesday, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey admitted that the platform’s algorithm has been “unfair.”
In reference to the so-called “shadow-banning” of some 600,000 accounts, which included some members of Congress, Dorsey acknowledged that the platform’s “quality filter” had suppressed the visibility of accounts using parameters that unfairly impacted some users.
Though he was “unable to immediately say whether a majority of them were Republican, Democratic or otherwise,” BBC notes, Dorsey acknowledged in the hearing that the platform had reduced the visibility of hundreds of thousands accounts using an algorithm that was “unfair” but, he stressed, has since been “corrected.”
Dorsey has come under increased pressure from conservatives, Republicans, and now the Department of Justice, who point to an apparent pattern of politically biased handling of users by the platform that has punished those on the right.
Dorsey, however, denied that his company makes “any decisions” based on political ideology. “We do not shadow-ban anyone based on political ideology,” he said, BBC reports.
“Twitter does not use political ideology to make any decisions, whether related to ranking content on our service or how we enforce our rules,” he insisted.
The complex algorithm incorporates hundreds of factors in determining which accounts to filter out or “down-rank,” said Dorsey; included among those signals was the behavior of an account’s followers, which ended up negatively impacting some users in what Dorsey described as an “unfair” way.
While some Democrats decried the hearing as a political sideshow, Republicans disagreed, pressing Dorsey to be more transparent about how the platform handled users and suggesting the rules of the platform lacked clarity, which Dorsey acknowledged was a problem.
Dorsey has recently announced that his platform is making significant changes to influence user behavior. In an interview with The Washington Post in August, Dorsey said he wanted to reduce “echo chambers” on the platform by making changes to the “incentives” built into product. “Because they do express a point of view of what we want people to do — and I don’t think they are correct anymore,” he said.
Following the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing Wednesday, the Department of Justice announced a meeting with state attorneys general in September over the issue of tech companies “intentionally stifling the free exchange of ideas.”
“The Attorney General has convened a meeting with a number of state attorneys general this month to discuss a growing concern that these companies may be hurting competition and intentionally stifling the free exchange of ideas on their platforms,” said department spokesman Devin O’Malley in a statement Wednesday.