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The shadow ban: what it is and what it is not

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What is the shadow ban?
Does Twitter execute the shadow ban?

There is a shadow of doubt..

On Thursday morning, the President of the United States Donald Trump accused the social network Twitter of secretly banning the voices of prominent Republicans.


The backlash was sparked after Vice News reported that Republicans were not appearing in the search function's self-populated drop-down list on Twitter..

But that's not a shadow ban - it's a bug, according to Twitter.

“We do not prohibit shade. Twitter said in a blog post on Thursday, "You are still able to read tweets from accounts you follow (although you should try harder to find them, such as visiting their profile directly). "

“We are aware that some accounts are not automatically populated in our search box and we are working to resolve this problem. The Twitter spokesperson said earlier today. “Profiles, tweets and discussions from these accounts will certainly appear when you search for them. Our behavioral ranking does not make judgments based on political opinions or the content of tweets. "..

Thursday's presidential backlash against Twitter is the most recent in a string of accusations lawmakers have carried out on social media and censorship. The House Judiciary Committee had two hearings on the matter, in July and April respectively, in which Republican lawmakers asked representatives of Twitter, Google and Facebook if their platform purposely silenced conservative voices.

In January, a hearing in the Sen Senate also dealt with this subject. Ted Cruz, Republican from Texas, asked Twitter's policy director Carlos Monje if this social network practiced the shadow ban. Monje said no. Twitter announced that it did not do the shadow ban during multiple hearings on Capitol Hill.

More recently, during a July 18 hearing, Nick Pickles, global leader of Twitter's public policy strategy, told lawmakers, “Some critics have described all of our work as a ban on conservative voices. Today let me make it clear that these statements are false and unfounded. ".

What is the shadow ban?

The concept of the shadow ban is not new. It is often used as an alternative measure to directly ban someone in forums and other social networks.

Instead of chasing a user, the shadow ban makes messages visible only to the people who posted them. This measure protects other users from harmful content and makes those who are banned secretly leave the forum because there is no response to their posted messages.

If you ban a user directly, that person will notice and maybe create another account and continue their unhealthy behavior.

Until November 2015, the shadow ban was the only form of ban on the Reddits site. This practice is similar to what Facebook does against misinformation. On July 11, Facebook told reporters that instead of completely banning harmful pages and misinformation, it preferred to downgrade those posts so that fewer people saw them.

“Shadow ban is typically used to stop robots and trolls. Said Zack Allen, director of threat operations at ZeroFox, a company that focuses on social network security.

"It could be effective in the fight against robots since" robot breeders "who have accounts do not necessarily know if their robots are really seen by other people. " he said.

Does Twitter execute the shadow ban?


You can still see their posts from the Republicans mentioned in the Vice News article, including Republican Party President Ronna McDaniel and Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz.

The White House, McDaniel and Gaetz have not answered questions yet.

It is possible that your Twitter account is not self-populated in searches, but that does not indicate that you have been secretly banned.

Kevin Lee, trust and security architect at fraud and abuse detection company Sift Science, said Thursday's misunderstanding showed lawmakers the need for more tech savvy.

“Our readers need to identify how technology works in order to make informed decisions (or make public comments), especially when they have such influence over the use and control of technology. Lee said.

The company says Twitter moderators do not actively take action against and block accounts and therefore only users themselves can see their own tweets.

In a series of tweets on Wednesday, Twitter product manager Kayvon Beykpour said the search results bug involved an error in Twitter's algorithm.

Beykpour explained that behavioral signals from Twitter caused autosuggestion errors.

“Our use of behavioral cues in research caused this problem and made research results appear inaccurate. ", He wrote in a tweet Wednesday," Today we are designing a change that will improve research. ".

Twitter Health Product Director David Gasca told HUNDRED about the signals earlier in July. These signals could show how often an account is deactivated, blocked, retweeted, liked and replied. Twitter's algorithm considers interactions and its artificial intelligence in the classroom as positive or negative experiences.

As part of Twitter's measures to create healthy conversations, artificial intelligence will prefer accounts that have more positive experiences.