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Twitter Files 2.0: Arbitrary blacklisting, deliberate reduction in tweet visibility of right-wing accounts exposed in internal communications

Weiss noted the case of Stanford Professor Dr Jay Bhattacharya, whose tweets were stopped from trending for stating that Covid-19 lockdowns could harm children.

Days after Elon Musk revealed internal communications, pertaining to the censorship of the Hunter Biden story on the social media platform, another tranche of ‘confidential and privileged conversations that exposes the internal workings of Twitter was released on Thursday (December 8, US local time).

The ‘Twitter Files’ (as it is now called) story was initially broken by independent journalist Matt Taibbi. It exposed how the Twitter moderation team justified the censorship of the Hunter Biden story, under the guise of the ‘hacked materials policy,’ by the likes of Vijaya Gadde. 

The second part of the ‘Twitter Files’ gave a glimpse into the high-handedness of a ‘select few’ employees at the social media platform, who routinely censored right-wing accounts and non-mainstream narratives with complete disregard for Twitter’s rules.

American journalist Bari Weiss, who broke the story on Thursday (December 8, US local time), pointed out how some Twitter employees kept users in darkness.

In complete violation of its own mission, Twitter became a hotbed of censorship through the creation of blacklists, arbitrary prevention of tweets from trending on the platform and deliberate reduction of visibility of trending topics and accounts.

Weiss noted the case of Stanford Professor Dr Jay Bhattacharya, whose tweets were stopped from trending for stating that Covid-19 lockdowns could harm children.

Similarly, Twitter accounts of ‘conservative activist’ Charlie Kirk and ‘right-wing’ talk show host Dan Bongino were put on ‘Do Not Amplify’ mode and ‘Search Blacklist’ respectively.

Weiss added how former Twitter Legal Head, Vijaya Gadde, and Product Head Kayvon Beykpour had denied the existence of such arbitrary enforcement of censorship rules.

She informed that Twitter discreetly referred to ‘shadow banning’ as ‘Visibility Filtering (VF) to stop posts by individual users from appearing in searches and on the trending page.

“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 confided in Bari Weiss.

“VF refers to Twitter’s control over user visibility. It used VF 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,” she emphasised.

Citing a Twitter engineer, the American journalist pointed out how the social media platform controlled the amplification of people’s content, without their knowledge.

According to Bari Weiss, a group of Twitter employees constituting the ‘Strategic Response Team – Global Escalation Team (SRT-GET)’ was at the helm of limiting the reach of Twitter accounts. “It often handled up to 200 “cases” a day,” she emphasised.

Besides SRT-GET, there was another group that exercised a lot of power. It was the Site Integrity Policy, Policy Escalation Support (SIP-PES)’ team of Twitter.

“This secret group included the Head of Legal, Policy, and Trust (Vijaya Gadde), the Global Head of Trust & Safety (Yoel Roth), subsequent CEOs Jack Dorsey and Parag Agrawal, and others,” she informed.

“This is where the biggest, most politically sensitive decisions got made,” she added, highlighting cases of Twitter accounts with considerable influence and a high number of followers.

One of the prominent Twitter accounts that faced the wrath of the secret group ‘Site Integrity Policy, Policy Escalation Support (SIP-PES)’ was ‘Libs of TikTok,’ which is run by Chaya Raichik.

The Twitter handle, which mocks the activities of left-liberals and trans activists, was suspended 6 times in 2022 alone and blocked for a period of one week during each phase of suspension under the pretext of ‘hateful conduct.’

However, internal communication by the ‘Site Integrity Policy, Policy Escalation Support (SIP-PES)’ team revealed that “Libs of Tik Tok has not directly engaged in behaviour violative of the Hateful Conduct policy.”

“The committee justified her suspensions internally by claiming her posts encouraged online harassment of “hospitals and medical providers” by insinuating that gender-affirming healthcare is equivalent to child abuse or grooming,” Bari Weiss pointed out.

Interestingly, the Twitter moderation team refused to take action against a user who posted the private information (home address) of Chaya Raichik. “We reviewed the reported content, and didn’t find it to be in violation of the Twitter rules,” it said and took no action against the doxxer.

Former Head of Trust & Safety at Twitter, Yoel Roth, who had justified censoring the ‘Hunter Biden’ story, also pointed out about the ‘under enforcing of Safety policies’ at Twitter.

“Six days later, in a direct message with an employee on the Health, Misinformation, Privacy, and Identity research team, Roth requested more research to support expanding “non-removal policy interventions like disabling engagements and deamplification /visibility filtering,” Bari Weiss said.

“The hypothesis underlying much of what we’ve implemented is that if exposure to, e.g., misinformation directly causes harm, we should use remediations that reduce exposure, and limiting the spread/virality of content is a good way to do that,” the American journalist quoted Yoel Roth as saying.

“We got Jack on board with implementing this for civic integrity in the near term, but we’re going to need to make a more robust case to get this into our repertoire of policy remediations – especially for other policy domains,” Weiss further quoted the ex-Head of Trust & Safety at Twitter.

Given that the coterie of left-liberals had earlier dubbed independent journalist Matt Taibbi for allegedly ‘selling out’ to the world’s richest man, bari Weiss emphasised that she and her colleague had been granted wide access to the Twitter files.

“The only condition we agreed to was that the material would first be published on Twitter,” Bari Weiss called out the lies of the left-liberal coterie who insinuated that Elon Musk restricted the independent operations of the journalists covering the ‘Twitter Files.’

While reacting to the second tranche of internal Twitter communications, Elon Musk shared tweets by both Vijaya Gadde and Yoel Roth wherein the duo was seen lying about censorship policies on the social media platform.

Last month, the new Twitter owner vowed to restore public trust in the platform by increasing transparency about the manner in which the Twitter moderation team functioned.

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Dibakar Dutta
Dibakar Dutta
Centre-Right. Political analyst. Assistant Editor @Opindia. Reach me at [email protected]

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