New investigation details practice of ‘phantom bans’ known internally as ‘visibility filtering’
Twitter has created a series of barriers and tools for moderators to prevent the trending of specific tweets and entire topics, or limit the visibility of entire accounts, according to internal correspondence and interviews with multiple high-level sources. within the company.
Despite repeated public assurances from senior Twitter officials that the company will not “shadow ban” users, especially not “based on political views or ideology”, the practice actually existed under the euphemism of “visibility filtering” according to journalist Bari Weiss, who published the second installment of the so-called ‘Twitter files‘ in a long thread Thursday night.
“Think of visibility filtering as a way for us to suppress what people see at different levels. It is a very powerful tool. said a senior Twitter employee, while another admitted that “Normal people don’t know how much we make.”
Twitter moderators have the power to add the user to categories such as “Trends Blacklist” “Search the blacklist” and “Do not amplify” to limit the reach of a particular tweet or the discoverability of the entire account – all without users’ knowledge or warning.
Weiss noted that the tools have even been used to limit the reach of academics, including Stanford University’s Dr Jay Bhattacharya, who courted controversy after challenging the effectiveness of Covid-19 lockdowns and other pandemic mandates. He ended up on Twitter “Trends Blacklist” keep his posts out of the site’s trending section, the docs show.
However, above the common moderators was another “secret group” who dealt with questions concerning “great follower”, “controversial” and other notable users. Known as “Site Integrity Policy, Policy Escalation Support”, the team included high-level executives such as former head of legal, policy and trust, Vijaya Gadde, global head of trust and security, Yoel Roth, and CEOs Jack Dorsey and Parag Agrawal.
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