On Thursday, Elon Musk confirmed that Twitter kept a “secret blacklist” of topics and accounts to prevent them from trending, and conservatives who had not broken any of Twitter’s policies were unfairly banned from the social media platform. Musk has called this revelation proof that “the inmates were running the asylum” at Twitter prior to his takeover of the company.
Journalist Bari Weiss released part two of the “Twitter Files” on Thursday evening, revealing that Twitter employees had constructed blacklists to prevent certain tweets from trending and to limit or block the visibility of some accounts – all without informing the users.
1. 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 (@bariweiss) December 9, 2022
Weiss revealed that Twitter had placed Stanford’s Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, who argued that Covid lockdowns would be harmful to children, had been secretly placed on a “Trends Blacklist” by Twitter employees.
The journalist also revealed that Don Bongino, a popular right-wing talk show host, was labeled with a “Search Blacklist.”
In 2018, Twitter’s former Head of Legal Policy and Trust, along with their Head of Product, insisted that they do not shadow ban users, adding that they “certainly don’t shadow ban based on political viewpoints or ideology.”
Twitter did not explicitly refer to its blacklisting process as “shadow banning,” they instead called it “Visibility Filtering,” or “VF.” This was confirmed to Weiss and her team The Free Press by multiple Twitter employees.
One senior employee confirmed to Weiss how Twitter used VF, saying, “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 Twitter engineer told Weiss’s team, “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.”
After Weiss released her report, Musk Tweeted, “Twitter is working on a software update that will show your true account status, so you know clearly if you’ve been shadowbanned, the reason why and how to appeal.”
Twitter is working on a software update that will show your true account status, so you know clearly if you’ve been shadowbanned, the reason why and how to appeal
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 9, 2022
Musk also jumped to the defense of Twitter co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey, who was reportedly a member of a secret group called the Strategic Response Team – Global Escalation Support (SIP-PES). This group is where the “biggest, most politically sensitive decisions got made.”
“Controversial decisions were often made without getting Jack’s approval and he was unaware of systemic bias,” Musk claimed. “The inmates were running the asylum. Jack has a pure heart [in my opinion].”