Twitter has been under fire from conservatives for more than a year thanks to their practice of “shadowbanning” accounts that express a point of view that Silicon Valley SJWs don’t agree with. This anger reached a fever pitch a few months ago when, under the guise of ridding their site of Russian trolls, Twitter banned many active conservative accounts without so much as a warning. While legitimate accounts were ultimately reinstated, several prominent conservatives noted that their followers had been cut to a fraction of what they were before the ban.
The company has repeatedly denied that it engages in these tactics. On numerous occasions, Twitter spokespeople have said they do not use the “shadowban” (hiding a person’s posts without the person themselves actually knowing about it) as a technique to limit discourse. In an announcement this week, however, Twitter not only confirmed that they engage in this tactic but are making it a core practice going forward.
In an effort to limit “behaviors that distort and detract from the public conversation,” Twitter will begin pushing “trollish” actors down to the bottom of any ongoing thread. The site was quick to assure users that these tools will be voluntary…but they admitted that they’ll be turned on by default. And since they are promoting this as a way to clean the site up from uncivilized nonsense – actual trolling – we’d imagine that few users will press the “show everything” button just to bring that nonsense back.
The problem is simple: WHO will be deciding which users are contributing to healthy debate and which ones are not?
That’s where things get tricky and partisan bias can play a significant role.
“There are many new signals we’re taking in, most of which are not visible externally,” the company said in a blog post. “Just a few examples include if an account has not confirmed their email address, if the same person signs up for multiple accounts simultaneously, accounts that repeatedly Tweet and mention accounts that don’t follow them, or behavior that might indicate a coordinated attack. We’re also looking at how accounts are connected to those that violate our rules and how they interact with each other.”
We don’t begrudge Twitter the right to clean up the site or to remove people who are on there for no other reason than to harass users for their own lame amusement, but this is a tool begging to be abused. And since Twitter has hardly acted in good faith when it comes to conservative writers, we will not be surprised when those on the right side of the political spectrum end up feeling the overwhelming brunt of the site’s new “troll tools.”