Elon Musk is allowing reporters to sift through Twitter’s internal documents, talk with employees and expose their findings about the social media platform. The first set of documents, from Matt Taibbi, revealed that politicians and government agencies worked with Twitter employees to suppress news stories.
In “The Twitter Files Part Two,” Substack founder and writer Bari Weiss has revealed 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.”
Weiss explained that she worked with other writers and reporters – Abigail Shrier, Michael Shellenberger, Nellie Bowles, and Isaac Grafstein – to gather information and write about Twitter’s internal policies.
Like Taibbi, she notes that Twitter’s original mission was “to give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers.” Then she explains how barriers were erected by the company to squelch conservatives, whom left-leaning Twitter employees wanted to silence.
Such social media practices are referred to as “shadow bans.”
The first example she lists is Dr. Jayanta “Jay” Bhattacharya, a professor of medicine, economics and health research policy at Stanford University. Co-author of the Great Barrington Declaration, he argued against mass COVID-19 lockdowns. The document, signed on October 4, 2020, cited the “damaging physical and mental health impacts” of shutting down businesses, sports, cultural activities, schools and outdoor spaces.
But Twitter, Weiss explained, kept Bhattacharya’s account from having a broader reach:
Weiss pointed to other public figures, such as “the popular right-wing talk show host, Dan Bongino (@dbongino), who at one point was slapped with a ‘Search Blacklist.’” Conservative talk show host Charlie Kirk, founder of Turning Point USA and Turning Point Faith, had “Do Not Amplify” placed on his account.
But Twitter claimed it did not shadow ban anyone:
Instead, the company called such practices “Visibility Filtering” (VF), Weiss reported. One senior Twitter employee told her, “Think about visibility filtering as being a way for us to suppress what people see to different levels. It’s a very powerful tool.”
Shadow banning. Visibility Filtering. Suppression.
Whatever you call it, Twitter was working “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.”
And all this, “without users’ knowledge.”
Weiss said that there was a “Strategic Response Team – Global Escalation Team, or SRT-GET,” created to block users with views that content moderators disagreed with.
But above the official censorship group, a higher-level team was formed to control the spread of certain viewpoints: the “‘Site Integrity Policy, Policy Escalation Support,’ known as ‘SIP-PES.’”
Weiss tweeted that this group consisted of CEOs and department heads:
Libs of TikTok, a group founded by Chaya Raichik, exposes leftist activists, educators and librarians who work to sexualize and confuse children. Libs of TikTok re-posts these activists’ own videos on Twitter.
Libs of TikTok had their account placed on the “Trends Blacklist” and suspended numerous times. Weiss reported:
At the same time, the high-level SIP-PES team admitted, “LTT has not directly engaged in behavior violative of the Hateful Conduct policy.”
Raichik was doxxed by activists, with her address and a picture of her home exposed in a tweet. Twitter refused to respond to her complaint that this made her a target, as the company found the tweet didn’t violate Twitter rules.
Weiss also reported that Twitter was looking for ways to increase its blocking of disapproved tweets even more, by using spam enforcement policies, “disabling engagements and deamplification/visibility filtering.”
Weiss ended by saying there’s more to come, as she and the other “authors have broad and expanding access to Twitter’s files.” She also introduced a new media company and website, The Free Press, which will offer more journalism and more about Twitter’s shutdown of conservative groups.