For conservative accounts who cite a speech limitation, this will do little to quell the concerns.
The case of Twitter taking a particular aim at conservatives is an ongoing and ever-present complaint lodged on, and about, the social media platform. Whether it is a constantly fluid set of standards getting particular accounts in trouble to the more mysterious and seemingly targeted use of bans and suspensions with little explanation, users on the right are rather vocal on their treatment.
Today Sean Davis, from The Federalist, displayed what may be a newer version of the Twitter “shadow ban”. This is when an account is seemingly fully active, but the content that emanates from it is not broadcast across the site in the same fashion — either in general or in particular tweets — as conventional tweets have been. You can seemingly send out a message as the account remains active but your followers do not see it appearing on their timeline. Many believe this is a quiet way for Twitter to silence certain accounts or subjects.
What Davis displayed on his feed was an instance from March 12 where he had sent out a tweet that others were not privy to seeing. The hitch was it did show as active on Sean’s own feed, so it appeared as if it was transmitted with no issue.
Is @Twitter experimenting with shadow bans by deleting tweets so others can't see them, but keeping them visible to you while you're logged in? I had to re-publish my original Lisa Page transcript tweet because it was disappeared to everyone but me. pic.twitter.com/RugtpK2MYn
— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) March 12, 2019
He went on to show what was transpiring; while he was logged on the message was visible to him, but if he logged out of his own account and attempted to go to the tweet page it was showing as non-existent.
Screenshot of the disappeared tweet while logged in on left, logged out on right. Original tweet URL functions while logged in, but is a dead link while logged out. Timeline shows disappeared tweet while logged in, but it's missing from the version everyone else sees. Strange… pic.twitter.com/UjGWPASzat
— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) March 12, 2019
While in the past it was somewhat evident when these occurrences took place what makes this one slightly different is the appearance that everything is operational from the vantage of the account holder. The tweet is visible to the user, but you have no direct knowledge that it has been effectively blocked from showing on other feeds. The only way Davis became aware was that his rather popular account was not reflecting a normal level of activity on the tweet in question.
Davis reached to Twitter management and after one week he did receive a confirmation that the tweet had in fact been scrubbed, due to their interpretation of public safety.
Twitter confirmed to me today via e-mail that it did shadowban one of my tweets about Lisa Page's congressional testimony in order to "keep people safe[.]" Twitter deliberately deleted the tweet/URL, yet kept it visible for me when I was logged in so I'd think it was still up. pic.twitter.com/Hs1z7H0xJn
— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) March 18, 2019
That the tweet did not contain threats or abusive language goes without saying. The sanitized tweet was nothing more than Davis posting a transcript from a testimony that is on public record. However the algorithm used by Twitter was triggered by something in the content, but then this newer practice of hiding their shadow ban from the user was employed as they did so.
It is this type of practice that could be at the heart of the Devin Nunes lawsuit announced yesterday. Speculation has been made over the past year on whether Twitter can become liable in court because of the manner in which they make these silencing decisions. In doing so they could be contradicting the excuse frequently given, that they are merely providing a platform for speech to take place and are not responsible for how it is used. If they are molding and shaping the content on their service then it may be argued they are taking on more of an editorial role and as such can be deemed to be a content provider, and thus more responsible for the content.
In the past, some users on the site have noticed when engagements and activity were scaled down, and later when Twitter management supposedly curtailed the actions, and engagements increased. This may not only be a sign they are reinstituting the shadow ban practice but actually evolving it to be used in a different fashion.
It also leads to some speculation on the possibility the site is experimenting with newer methods of controlling the dialogue on its platform. The timing is curious, as it is just ahead of the run-up to the next Presidential election.
** for more entertainment, political, or bad movie content follow me on Twitter @MartiniShark