Confirmed: Twitter Shadowbans Conservatives

Suspicions about Twitter's bias against conservatives have been fully confirmed by multiple employees and former employees.

By Rachel Alexander Published on January 15, 2018

Twitter has been “shadowbanning” conservative accounts, as some have recently charged.  Project Veritas secretly videotaped several Twitter employees admitting to hiding conservative tweets from other users.

Run by conservative videographer James O’Keefe, Project Veritas filmed Abhinov Vadrevu, a former Twitter software engineer, explaining how shadowbanning works. “The idea of a shadow ban is that you ban someone but they don’t know they’ve been banned, because they keep posting and no one sees their content. So they just think that no one is engaging with their content, when in reality, no one is seeing it.” Tweets will show up in the news feeds of users’ followers, but not anywhere else on Twitter such as in search results.

A former content review agent for Twitter, Mo Norai, says Twitter bans accounts for political reasons. “If they said this is pro-Trump and I don’t want it because it offends me, this, that. And I say I banned this whole thing.” Content reviewers would let a lot of the left-leaning or liberal stuff go through unchecked.

Twitter Under Fire

Twitter has come under fire for other types of censorship.

There are claims that it is quick to suspend or ban accounts from those on the right. Journalist Megan Fox reports getting silenced for the kinds of things everyone says in normal political arguments. Twitter banned prominent blogger Robert Stacy McCain, known for his acerbic, witty criticisms of feminism, in February 2016. It seems to give those on a left a pass who act the same way toward conservatives.

There are also complaints about favoritism. Twitter provides an  blue checkmark on accounts of prominent people it’s authenticated. The checkmark makes others more likely to follow them.

However, little known accounts on the left with barely 1,000 followers are awarded blue checks. Prominent people on the right with well over 20,000 followers are not.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, famous for exposing the left, has over 673,000 followers. Twitter will not give him a blue check.

Something on the left “would come through checked and then I would be like, oh you know what? This is okay. Let it go.” Twitter, he admits, is “probably about 90 percent anti-Trump, maybe 99 percent anti-Trump.”

Shadowban for Control

Vadrevu admits Twitter’s interest is not free speech, but controlling the platform. “One strategy is to shadow ban so you have full control.” He acknowledges, “It’s like, unethical in some way.”

Former Twitter engineer Conrado Miranda is asked by a Project Veritas reporter on video whether Twitter shadowbans conservatives and Trump supporters. He responds, “That’s a thing. Yeah.” He explains how a filter removes those kinds of tweets.

Pranay Singh, Twitter Direct Messaging Engineer, explained on January 5 to Project Veritas how Twitter set up the algorithms to censor right-leaning content. The system looks for key words, then evaluates the message. He claims the company does it to catch bots from Russia.

“Yeah you look for Trump, or America, or any of, like, five thousand, like, keywords to describe a redneck. Then you look and parse all the messages, all the pictures, and then you look for stuff that matches that stuff.” He went on, “the majority of it [the algorithms] are for Republicans.” 

Twitter software engineer Steven Pierre explained further on video how the censorship algorithms work, “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,” Pierre said. “It’s going to ban a way of talking.”

In another video, a senior network security engineer revealed the company is turning over to the DOJ President Trump’s direct messages. Clay Haynes said, Twitter is “more than happy to help” by providing “every single tweet that [Trump] has posted, even the ones he’s deleted. Any direct messages, any mentions.”

He admitted, “I’m pretty sure every single employee at Twitter hates Trump.” He says “you got to go to Google to find the conservative.” He says because the company is located in a blue area, employees see plenty of unwritten rules about censoring the right.

Twitter’s Defense

Twitter denied shadowbanning. In a statement to Fox News, the company declared, “Twitter does not shadowban accounts. We do take actions to downrank accounts that are abusive, and mark them accordingly so people can still to click through and see these Tweets if they so choose.” Twitter downplayed Haynes’ remarks. It said he does not speak for the company. Twitter clarified that it only speaks with law enforcement in response to a valid legal request.

The company also attacked Project Veritas “selective editing.” The group edits its videos to cut out irrelevant portions but says it doesn’t distort the message. Twitter disagrees. “We deplore the deceptive and underhanded tactics by which this footage was obtained and selectively edited to fit a pre-determined narrative.”

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While Twitter is a private company, it is now so dominant in public life that Steve Bannon and others call for it to be regulated it like a public utility. Its reach over the news continues to grow. Eleven percent of Americans now get news from Twitter.

Facebook employees changed its trending topics section to downplay right-leaning news. Public outcry forced the company to stop the practice. Facebook fired the employees.

A spokesman for Project Veritas said there are more videos coming. Twitter would be wise to emulate Facebook or risk regulation like a public utility.



Follow Rachel on Twitter at Rach_IC

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