The second batch of what’s being called the Twitter Files was announced on the platform Thursday, December 8. In a 30-part thread, journalist Bari Weiss of The Free Press revealed the secret blacklists Twitter employees used to silence conservative voices. But that isn’t the end of the story. As she said in tweet #29, “We’re just getting started on our reporting.”
Twitter’s Secret Blacklists Boast Some Big Names
“A new #TwitterFiles investigation reveals that teams of Twitter employees build blacklists, prevent disfavored tweets from trending, and actively limit the visibility of entire accounts or even trending topics – all in secret, without informing users,” Weiss declared in the first of two-and-a-half dozen tweets Thursday evening.
Twitter has long denied any progressive ideological bias, yet conservatives held on to their belief that the social media giant wasn’t just biased in thought, but acting against them as well. The evidence certainly hasn’t helped assuage such feelings. As Liberty Nation’s Joe Schaeffer reported back in 2019, “Twitter has started fact-checking tweets to protect the public from lies, calls for violence or destruction, and other contemptible content.” But of course, as Joe pointed out, that didn’t apply to blatant calls by a University of Alabama at Birmingham archaeology professor’s tutorial on how to effectively destroy public property.
So, yesterday’s revelation that Twitter acted against conservatives using secret blacklists came as no surprise to many. The only news in the story for most conservatives was that it isn’t being denied anymore. Ms. Weiss described in her thread a trends blacklist and a search blacklist and gave some prominent examples – including screenshots.
Dr. Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford, who argued that COVID lockdowns would harm children – was secretly placed on a “Trends Blacklist.” Though not visible by the public or even by the account owner himself, the tag was prominently displayed on the Twitter employee view, as shown by a screenshot posted by Weiss. Popular podcast host and Fox contributor Dan Bongino was, at one point, put on a “Search Blacklist,” and the profile of Charlie Kirk was marked “Do Not Amplify.”
Shadow Ban? No, We Call It Visibility Filtering
Back in 2018, former-Representative Devin Nunes (R-CA) called out Twitter for its controversial practice of shadow banning conservative content. The company denied it, of course. “People are asking us if we shadow ban,” Vijaya Gadde, legal, policy, and trust and safety lead for the company, said. “We do not.”
Even back then, a former Twitter engineer contradicted that claim in a Project Veritas video. Shadow banning was described as banning someone without letting them know about it. So they continue to post, but no one sees their content. This leads the targeted individual to think that folks simply aren’t engaging with their content, when in fact, no one is seeing it at all.
So how does the company claiming that shadow banning doesn’t happen stack up to the most recent info dump? It’s all semantics, of course. “What many people call ‘shadow banning,’ Twitter executives and employees call ‘visibility filtering’ or VF,’” Weiss revealed. “Multiple high-level sources confirmed its meaning.”
This filtering can include blocking searches of individual users, limiting the scope of a particular tweet’s discoverability, blocking select users’ posts from ever appearing on the trending page, and exclusion from hashtag searches, she explained. And it all occurs without the users even knowing about it.
“We control visibility quite a bit,” one Twitter engineer allegedly told the journalist. “And we control the amplification of your content quite a bit. And normal people do not know how much we do.” Huh, sounds an awful lot like what folks have referred to for several years now as shadow banning.
Twitter’s Departure From the Path – And Now a Return?
Twitter once had a mission, Weiss posted: “to give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers.” But somewhere along the way, the social media juggernaut stepped off that path, wandering deep into the wilderness of ideological bias and censorship. Do the Musk takeover and the Twitter Files represent a return, though? Bari Weiss and Matt Taibbi – who posted the first big reveal earlier in the week – are given “broad and expanding access to Twitter’s files,” Weiss reports, so long as they agree to break the news on Twitter first.
Courtesy of Musk, we can expect that Taibbi and Weiss will have many more such announcements for us – if the final tweets in the thread are any indication. Weiss assures that they’re “just getting started,” and that more is to come. According to tweet #30, the next installment will come from Taibbi.
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