‘Twitter used Visibility Filtering to block individual user’s searches to limit scope of a particular tweet’s discoverability’.
New Delhi: Twitter, under its new ownership of billionaire Elon Musk, has released a second part on the “Twitter Files” on Friday morning (IST), exposing the pervious management’s biases on the right-wing accounts and showing how the previous management led by Vijaya Gadde “shadow banned” and restricted accounts that she and her team thought were not in line with their ideology.
The “Twitter Files” part two released on Twitter by Bari Weiss, founder and editor of Free Press, a US-based media outlet, titled “Twitter’s Secret Blacklist”, shows that the investigation by the new management under Elon Musk has revealed that the teams of erstwhile Twitter employees-built blacklists, prevented disfavoured tweets from trending, and actively limited the visibility of entire accounts or even trending topics—all in secret, without informing users.
The Twitter files on Friday also revealed that a “secret group” was being operated in Twitter under its previous management which was headed by Head of Legal, Policy, and Trust, Vijaya Gadde, the Global Head of Trust & Safety, Yoel Roth, subsequent CEOs Jack Dorsey and Parag Agrawal, and others.
“This is where the biggest, most politically sensitive decisions got made. A level existed which went beyond the normal ticketing system for queries that was normally followed in twitter and this went beyond the company’s policy on paper. ‘Think high follower account, controversial’, for these there would be no ticket or anything.” Weiss revealed in her Twitter thread put out under the title “Twitter Files part two” as narrated to her by Twitter employees.
Weiss put out a series of 30 tweets which also revealed instances and accounts that were put on blacklist and prevented its reach. According to Weiss’s tweets, Dr Jay Bhattacharya, Professor Stanford School of Medicine’s Twitter account was put on “trends blacklist” by previous Twitter employees which restricted his account from trending. The reason was given that Bhattacharya had tweeted against the Covid lockdown and how the lockdown could harm children.
Dan Bongino, a popular right wing talk show host in the US, his account was also put on blacklist and the previous Twitter employees had even put his account on “search blacklist” which means that no user on Twitter would be able to even search for his account.
While another Twitter account named as Chaya Raichik was suspended six times in 2022 and Twitter had informed her that her account was being repeatedly suspended for “violating Twitter’s policy on hateful conduct”. The Twitter account owned by Raichik who joined Twitter in November 2020 had over 1.4 million followers.
Weiss has also put out the names of several other such activists and right leaning politicians whose accounts were either blacklisted or put on restrictions by the erstwhile management of Twitter, since they did not align with the ideology of Twitter. The screenshots put out by Weiss also shows how Twitter had developed software and technologies to block, restrict, shadow ban and limit the reach of profiles and the erstwhile employees were misusing them.
Several Indian politicians and activists leaning to the right spectrum of the political ideology had also often in the past complained about how their profiles were being “shadow banned” by twitter and restricting and limiting their reach on the social media giant’s platform.
In 2018, Twitter’s then Head of Legal policy and Trust, Vijaya Gadde had told in public that they “do not shadow ban” and “not certainly on political viewpoints and ideology”. However, the new expose shows otherwise. Weiss also clarified in her tweet that “What many people call ‘shadow banning’, Twitter executives and employees call ‘Visibility Filtering’ or ‘VF’.” Multiple high-level sources confirmed its meaning.
According to Weiss’s Twitter thread, several former Twitter employees and Twitter engineers have told her that “It (Twitter) used VF to block searches of individual users; to limit the scope of a particular tweet’s discoverability; to block select users’ posts from ever appearing on the “trending” page; and from inclusion in hashtag searches. All without users’ knowledge.”