Twitter Files Part 2: Blacklists and Shadow bans

Journalist and Former New York Times columnist Bari Weiss revealed “Part 2” of the Twitter files last week.

Weiss posted several images of what appears to be an internal Twitter system that marked certain accounts as being under various kinds of “blacklists”, including Carlie Kirk, Dan Bongino, and Jay Bhattacharya, a health policy professor from Stanford University who opposed the COVID-19 lockdowns.

Weiss shared screenshots of internal messages from Yoel Roth, Twitter’s former head of safety and integrity, including one in which he appeared to ask for research on “non-removal policy interventions like disabling engagements and deamplification/visibility filtering.”

A senior employee told Weiss’ team to look at visibility filtering (VF) “as being a way for us to suppress what people see to different levels.”

“It’s a very powerful tool,” the individual added.

The company 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.”

An engineer at the company told Weiss’ team that they “control visibility quite a bit,” and that they “control the amplification of your content quite a bit.” The employee said “normal people do not know how much we do.”

The files reveal that Libs of Tiktok was one of the groups that was targeted. The account was suspended six times in 2022 alone for “hateful conduct.”

“The hypothesis underlying much of what we’ve implemented is that if exposure to, e.g., misinformation directly causes harm, we should use remediations that reduce exposure, and limiting the spread/virality of content is a good way to do that,” Roth wrote, also noting that they got former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey “on board” with rolling out these methods.

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