Surprise! Twitter Has Been Accused of Shadowbanning Users Whose Speech it Doesn’t Like

Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams has predicted every aspect of the rise of Donald Trump with eerie precision, and that doesn’t sit well with virulent anti-Trumpers. He has subsequently been vilified all over social media, which at one point resulted in what Adams described as a “shadowban” on Twitter.

From his April 14, 2017 blog post:

Regular readers of this blog know that over the past year, hundreds of my Twitter followers have reported that I am being “shadowbanned” on Twitter. The allegation is that Twitter is systematically “hiding” my tweets from a percentage of my followers to limit my influence. A widespread belief on the Internet is that people who write positive things about Trump are being “throttled” back for political reasons.

I’ve also heard dozens of reports from Twitter followers who say they are being automatically switched from following me to not following. Several say they have reproduced this effect several times in a row.

Other Twitter followers say my tweets often show as “not available” even though you can click the link in the tweet and see that it is available.

A less famous person complaining about shadowbanning would likely be dismissed as a crank, but Adams’s complaints drew the attention of Twitter’s CEO, who connected Adams to Del Harvey, Head of Twitter Trust & Safety, who stated that the “official answer is that no one, including [Adams], is shadowbanned on Twitter. It has never happened.”

So there.

There might actually be proof of shadowbanning

That wasn’t a satisfying answer to Project Veritas, which has released undercover video footage of Twitter employees boasting of doing precisely what Adams describes. They recount the process of finding Trump supporters and/or conservatives and then “just sort of turn[ing] off all the features for them.” So the users “still see everything, it’s all there. You can like it, favorite it, or you can like retweet, or whatever. But at the end of the day, no one else interacts. No one else sees what you’re doing.”

“Yeah you look for Trump, or America, and you have like five thousand keywords to describe a redneck,” another employee says. “Then you look and parse all the messages, all the pictures, and then you look for stuff that matches that stuff.” And once you find it, you shadowban it so nobody else can do the same.

A man identified as a Twitter engineer claims that they’re reaching a point where “every single conversation is going to be rated by a machine and the machine is going to say whether or not it’s a positive thing or a negative thing.” And if its negative, it’s gone.

Now the reality is that Twitter is a private company, and they have the right to do whatever they like with their own Internet platform. But the fact that the President of the United States uses it as his exclusive communication platform demonstrates the power that social media outlets have. Del Harvey may deny that shadowbanning happens, but he’s also capable of burying any evidence that contradicts him.  That ought to be of concern to everyone of any political stripe.

(Photo of Twitter on iPhone by Hamza Butt/Flickr)

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Jim Bennett recently ran for Congress as the first candidate of the newly formed United Utah Party and garnered the largest vote percentage of any third-party congressional candidate in Utah history. A longtime editorial writer and columnist for the Deseret News, he has managed several political campaigns in Utah, and he is currently at work on a biography of his father, former Utah Senator Robert F. Bennett. He and his wife, Laurel, are the parents of five children.

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