Monday, July 30, 2018

Twitter and Shadow Banning

Vijaya Gadde and Kayvon Beykpour (tweet, Hacker News):

The best definition we found is this: deliberately making someone’s content undiscoverable to everyone except the person who posted it, unbeknownst to the original poster.

We do not shadow ban. You are always able to see the tweets from accounts you follow (although you may have to do more work to find them, like go directly to their profile). And we certainly don’t shadow ban based on political viewpoints or ideology.

We do rank tweets and search results. We do this because Twitter is most useful when it’s immediately relevant. These ranking models take many signals into consideration to best organize tweets for timely relevance. We must also address bad-faith actors who intend to manipulate or detract from healthy conversation.


We know this approach is working because we see fewer abuse reports and spam reports.

They seem to be saying that Twitter may decide not to show certain tweets in your timeline or searches for various algorithmic reasons. (Low-ranked tweets don’t just show up at the bottom; they don’t show up at all.) They don’t consider this shadow banning because you can still see the tweets if you go to that person’s profile (which is impractical).

This doesn’t make much sense to me because it apparently also applies to tweets from users that you’ve specifically chosen to follow. And the person tweeting sees all their own tweets in their timeline, so they don’t know they’re invisible to others. That’s kind of what’s meant by “shadow.”

This is apparently separate from the quality filter, which affects tweets from people you don’t follow. You can turn this off, and I’ve seen links on where I can click to show which tweets were hidden.

I guess I have no way of knowing whether any tweets have been hidden from me by Twitter’s ranking algorithm. As far as I know, no one I follow has complained about being censored. But I would prefer to just always see everything. If someone I follow is posting bad stuff, I want to know that, and then I can just choose to unfollow them.

5 Comments RSS · Twitter

This seems horrible to me. What if someone I follow consistently puts out harmless tweets as well as incredibly offensive tweets but due to shadow banning I only ever see the harmless ones. That may sound like it is helping me, but twitter likes to show everyone who you follow. So other people can see that you follow someone super offensive and you may not even know.

Not to mention if you actually want to see the “offensive” tweets the service makes it incredibly difficult. What is the point of a messaging service that doesn’t deliver messages?

Todd Ditchendorf

> The best definition we found is this: deliberately making someone’s content undiscoverable to everyone except the person who posted it, unbeknownst to the original poster.

> We do not shadow ban.

LOL. The above is the definition of "Strawmanning", not "Shadowbanning."

No one is accusing Twitter of literally making one user's tweets completely invisible to all other users. That would be too obvious and easily provable.

Shadowbanning is more subtle and devious than that (and Twitter knows this). The algorithmic options are endless of course, but Shadowbanning involves "merely" suppressing tweets in threads, search results, and algorithmic Timelines in a way that is much less absolute and obvious. And then there's the infamous, thoroughly Orwellian-sounding "Quality Filter."

This is more of Twitter wanting to be Facebook. It won't work. It'll just annoy the core users. Then in a year they'll have a whole new strategy. Of course 3rd party clients don't have this problem that I can tell. However we know Twitter isn't exactly making life easy for them.

It's censorship, pure and simple.

Rankings and whatever only make sense for people looking at a generic feed of "what's popular".

When you explicitly choose to follow someone, then you should be seeing everything they post. Whether or not some algorithm think you should or should not want to.

The truth is that Twitter, like Facebook, is run by people who want to impose their political ideology on everybody else, so they block, delete or "shadowban" anybody who posts a lot of material that dares to disagree with their ideology. All the while, lying to the public by claiming they aren't doing it.

I don't think this is particularly surprising, or nefarious. In some ways, it's helpful. I think almost all larger social systems with follow-like features start doing something like this at some point, simply because there is too much content for most people to consume. YouTube, for example, does this. You can follow channels, but YouTube also tracks which channels and videos you actually watch, and then surfaces things it thinks you'll like, and hides things it thinks you won't. You can still go to each channel's page, and see all of their videos, but by default, YouTube filters what you see.

The reason they do this is likely not nefarious, it's simply that, for most people, this works better than just showing them everything they subscribed to. A lot of channels post daily, so if you subscribe to a hundred channels (which you can do easily), you end up with a hundred new videos every day. If every video averages around five minutes, you'll spend the whole day just watching these videos. That obviously doesn't work.

I get why people don't like this, but for most users of these platforms, showing them videos they'll actually watch, instead of showing them the videos they subscribed to, is simply a better experience. I know it's for me.

Leave a Comment