Back in January Kemberlee blogged about a Project Veritas video that revealed that Twitter was actively shadow banning conservatives.  As she noted at the time, Twitter has the freedom to run its social media platform as it sees fit.

That said, the Twitter practice of shadow banning right-leaning users has been called out by President Trump, and Twitter has struggled to explain—with unsettling echoes of Whoopi Goldberg’s assertion that Roman Polanski’s heinous crime wasn’t “rape-rape“—how their practice of silencing Republican and pro-Trump Twitter accounts is not shadow banning-shadow banning.

Here is the president’s tweet:

Twitter was caught off-guard and issued a somewhat bizarre statement in which they explained that their shadow banning of conservatives might give the appearance of shadow banning of conservatives but that it really wasn’t shadow banning of conservatives because . . . um, you know.

People are asking us if we shadow ban. We do not. But let’s start with, “what is shadow banning?”

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. [emphasis mine]

This is a discourse on the meaning of “is.”  Shadow banning’s definition, they rightly claim, states that a shadow banned account cannot be seen anywhere by anyone other than the shadow banned Twitter user.  That’s not what they do, they state, probably accurately.

What they don’t deny is the suppression of certain Twitter users’ tweets to the point that even a Twitter users’ followers cannot see their tweets without “doing more work to find them,” as Twitter notes, by going to that particular Twitter user’s profile page.

As they well know, however, no one goes to individual users’ profile pages to read their feed.  One of the main reasons Twitter was so successful was that we could follow hundreds, thousands, millions of people and see every one of their tweets in our “Home” page thread.  When we have to individually access each users’ page to read their tweets . . . . they are effectively banned.

Not only can certain (shadow banned) Twitter users not be found via a search for their user name, but their tweets do not populate in their followers’ Home page.  These Twitter users don’t exist in the Twitterverse unless you know whose tweets you want to see and have that page bookmarked . . . from before it was shadow banned because it won’t appear in a Twitter search.  Aside:  at this time, even shadow banned accounts will still appear in a web search.

The Daily Caller reports:

Several Republican congressmen’s Twitter accounts were suppressed this week because users that Twitter is actively trying to suppress engaged with the congressmen’s handles, two top Twitter executives said in a Thursday evening blog post.

Twitter executives Vijaya Gadde and Kayvon Beykpour conceded in a Thursday evening blog post that Twitter’s algorithm had limited the Republican congressmen’s visibility on the site because it linked them to what the company calls “bad-faith actors.”

Twitter, in May, began phasing in a change to its algorithm to suppress Twitter users who the company said stop short of violating Twitter’s terms of service, but are still considered harmful to “healthy conversation.” The new algorithm, Twitter said, would discriminate against those “bad-faith actors” by hiding their visibility in conversations and searches.

Although Twitter said the algorithm change wasn’t politically motivated, it soon became political in effect.

Republican Reps. Matt Gaetz of Florida, Mark Meadows of North Carolina and Jim Jordan of Ohio all had their visibility in searches suppressed, a Vice News investigation published Wednesday found. Democrats were not similarly affected by the change, Vice found.

Additionally, the Twitter not a shadow ban shadow ban algorithm reportedly penalizes Twitter users for what their followers tweet, how they interact with other accounts, and other variables unrelated to the account in question.

The Daily Caller continues:

Gadde and Beykpour, the two Twitter executives, on Thursday revealed three “signals” that Twitter uses to identify “bad-faith actors”:

  1. Specific account properties that indicate authenticity (e.g. whether you have a confirmed email address, how recently your account was created, whether you uploaded a profile image, etc)
  2. What actions you take on Twitter (e.g. who you follow, who you retweet, etc)
  3. How other accounts interact with you (e.g. who mutes you, who follows you, who retweets you, who blocks you, etc)

That third “signal” is what led Twitter’s algorithm to hide the visibility of the Republican accounts, which Twitter has since reversed.

The suppression of Republican congressmen’s accounts “had more to do with how other people were interacting with these representatives’ accounts than the accounts themselves,” Gadde and Beykpour wrote.

Twitter’s algorithm likely suppressed the Republican congressmen because the wrong accounts “engaged” with theirs, they said. [emphasis in original]

Prior to his account being reinstated to pre-shadow banning levels, Gaetz issued a fiery warning to Twitter.

Before Twitter restored his account’s visibility, Gaetz threatened to file a Federal Election Commission (FEC) complaint against the social media company.

“The evidence is piling up that I am being treated differently on Twitter than people on the political Left and I don’t like that because I enjoy the Twitter platform. I enjoy the engagement. I enjoy the candor,” Gaetz told TheDCNF on Wednesday.

“I would think that having won my election with 69 percent of the vote to serve in the Congress that the marketplace of ideas could accommodate my views,” the congressman continued.

“I am contemplating a complaint with the FEC, because if my political opponents have better access to the Twitter platform than I do, that’s no different than a private company giving my political opponents access to a billboard or television time or radio time. That wouldn’t be equal,” he said.

“So I believe that Twitter may have illegally donated to the campaigns of my opponents by prejudicing against my content.”

Twitter’s acknowledgement that the actions and words of a Twitter users’ followers can result in the not shadow ban shadow ban will inherently affect those on the right far more than those on the left.  The reason is simple:  leftists are far more likely to ban someone over political disagreements.

From Hot Air:

That all sounds non-partisan, but as Uncle Jimbo pointed out yesterday, there’s evidence that partisans on the left and right behave differently on social media. Specifically, people on the left are significantly more likely to block people they disagree with politically. From the Washington Post:

Consistent liberals were the most likely group to block or unfriend someone because they disagreed with their political postings, with 44 percent saying they had “hidden, blocked, defriended, or stopped following someone” on Facebook due to their political postings. Only roughly one-third (31 percent) of consistent conservatives had done the same — although this might be attributable to lower levels of ideological diversity in their online ecosystem…

Liberals were also more likely to drop a friend in real life over politics. Nearly a quarter, or 24 percent, of consistent liberals told Pew that have stopped talking to or being friends with someone over politics, compared to 16 percent of consistent conservatives.

I can say that this accords with my own experience on Twitter. There are dozens (maybe hundreds?) of progressives who have blocked me, not because I’ve ever had an interaction with them but because a few years ago someone on the left was sending around block lists and I was included on those lists, along with a lot of other people they’d never interacted with. For many on the left, if you’re on the right you’re a “bad-faith actor” by definition.

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.

It’s difficult to imagine that this difference in behavior by the left and right wasn’t taken into account by the Twitter powers that be as they developed their not a shadow ban shadow ban policy.