I’ve been on Twitter for 13 years. Like most Big Tech platforms and services, it was born free and then I noticed an increasingly unsubtle thumb on the scale. Facebook banned me twice. Google deranked me to bury my articles and my blog to the extent that sometimes I can enter the exact title of an article in quotes and it still won’t come up.
And Twitter, well it pretty obviously shadowbanned me. The only people who could see what I sent out were usually the ones following me and regularly engaging with me. My reach was borderline non-existent. In the Musk era, the change has been dramatic with people who don’t follow me responding and retweeting my articles.
Twitter and its media allies denied shadowbanning was happening. The latest #TwitterFiles reveals what we all knew from the inside.
“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,” Bari Weiss tweeted.
Her thread reveals that there were a variety of measures used to suppress people with disfavored views.
“Take, for example, Stanford’s Dr. Jay Bhattacharya who argued that Covid lockdowns would harm children. Twitter secretly placed him on a Trends Blacklist, which prevented his tweets from trending.”
Weiss notes that Dan Bongino was under a search blacklist, which meant that he wouldn’t come up in searches, and Charlie Kirk was under a “Do Not Amplify’ heading.
Twitter’s people called these various tools Visibility Filtering.
“Think about visibility filtering as being a way for us to suppress what people see to different levels. It’s a very powerful tool,” a senior Twitter employee told Weiss.
Twitter used visibility filtering “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.”
“We control visibility quite a bit. And we control the amplification of your content quite a bit. And normal people do not know how much we do,” a Twitter engineer told Weiss.
We control the vertical and the horizontal.
Ultimate decisions were made by a secret group that was unaccountable to anyone and left little trace of its activities. One of their targets was Libs of Tik Tok even though internal communications admitted that there was no basis for banning or suspending her.
The latest round of revelations destroys the myth of a rule-based evenhanded system and reveals the reality that Twitter was always ad-hoc, that its rules were a fig leaf and that enforcement was arbitrary. And part of that arbitrary nature meant that political bias was always in play.
The same is true of the rest of Big Tech.
The problem was always baked in. Big Tech has never been fair and has always been like this. What happened was that as everything became more ‘political’, the petty whims of personnel also became more political.
Added pressure from the government turned Big Tech into the censorship arm of the government with politically aligned government and tech employees coordinating to censor people they didn’t like.
Whatever impact #TwitterFiles will have, it has already destroyed the myth that Big Tech wove around it, and used to deflect charges of bias. The agenda has been documented and we know that the only rules they follow are the ones that serve their purposes.