Twitter had ‘secret blacklists’ to limit users, journalist claims | Social Media News

Twitter created a “secret” blacklist to limit the visibility of “unliked tweets” and some far-right accounts, independent journalist Bari Weiss has claimed, citing an investigation. based on internal company documents.

Weiss, a former New York Times opinion editor who now runs The Free Press, said on Friday the social media platform’s previous management limited the reach of specific accounts It is possible with what is known as “Trend Blacklist” and “Search Blacklist” as well as “Do Not Amplify”.

Twitter, which was bought by Elon Musk in October, has previously publicly admitted to limiting the reach of some accounts – making them visible to followers but restricting their visibility in chats and search results – although it has received much criticism for not informing affected users or being transparent about its decisions.

In a Twitter thread, Weiss said blacklisted figures include Jay Bhattacharya, a Stanford University professor who opposes COVID-19 lockdowns, Charlie Kirk, a conservative activist, and “Libs” of TikTok,” an account retweeted and mocked content posted elsewhere by libertarians. and LGBTQ people.

Weiss, who cited several unnamed Twitter employees to support his claim, including screenshots that appear to show the Twitter interface used to blacklist some accounts certain tags, including tags indicating their restricted status.

“We control visibility quite a bit. And we pretty much control the amplification of your content,” Weiss quoted an unnamed Twitter engineer as saying. “And ordinary people don’t know how much we do.”

Weiss says the most politically sensitive decisions are made by a group called “Site Integrity Policy, Support Policy Escalation,” which includes Vijaya Gadde, head of the legal department. , policy, trust and safety, and Yoel Roth, global head of trust and safety.

Al Jazeera has reached out to Gadde and Roth on Twitter and Linkedin for comment.

Kayvon Beykpour, Twitter’s former product manager, dismissed Weiss’ characterization of the platform’s policies, saying the company never declined to rate accounts but dismissed claims of “hiding bans” ” – or make certain posts undetectable to everyone except the person who posted it.

Beykpour said on Twitter: “You’re describing any de-amplification as the equivalent of banning darkness, which is a lazy or intentionally misleading interpretation.

Weiss’ release of the document comes after Twitter’s new owner, Elon Musk, shared internal company documents with Weiss and independent journalist Matt Taibbi.

Musk, a free-speech absolutist who has accused Twitter’s former management of leaning towards libertarian views, saw the release of the files as an attempt to increase transparency about influence of this platform on political speech.

Critics have accused Musk of leading a witch hunt against former Twitter employees, compromising the safety and security of the platform, and leading to an increase in bigotry and hate on this platform.

On Friday, Musk wrote on Twitter that the platform is working on an update to “show your actual account status, so you clearly know if you’ve been obscured, why, and how to appeal”.

Weiss’ statements on Friday drew a polarizing response, with conservatives seeing her report as evidence of Twitter’s liberal bias and many on the left accusing her of blowing inflate a bogus story and do PR for Musk, the richest man in the world.

Several Twitter users also pointed out that Musk last month said that negative and hateful tweets would be “downgraded” and “downgraded” under his leadership, given the platform’s new policy. This is “freedom of speech, but not freedom of access”.

Last Friday, Taibbi, a former Rolling Stone Journalist, now writes on Substack, publish internal Twitter correspondence from October 2020 shows how executives made decisions to limit the spread of a New York Post article about documents found on the laptop of Hunter Biden, son of President Donald Trump. US President Joe Biden.

The communication showed Twitter heads discussing how to handle the article, the sharing of which was ultimately restricted according to the platform’s policy against hacked documents.

Twitter’s decision to censor the article, sparking heated debate about the social network’s role in democracy, came after former US intelligence officials told the story about the laptop. carries signs of Russian disinformation – although there is no evidence of Russian involvement.

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