By Isabella @TheWandCarver
This will be quite a long read, so my apologies. Bring a boxed lunch.
If it smells like a duck, quacks like a duck, waddles like a duck…well, it must be a ducking duck! No, not writing this on my phone where they will always replace the “f-ing” word with “ducking”, only pre-censoring myself, lest certain Twitter employees think I need taking down a peg.
So, who else read the Daily Mail five days ago? You may recall my series of diatribes and thesis’ pertaining to ghost-banning [shadow-banning] …and if you don’t, perhaps you should familiarise yourselves with what I am talking about before reading this…just so it will make sense. It turns out that, in addition to other Tweeters who may disagree with your tweets, whether in a sensible way or not, allegedly Twitter also disagrees with many of our tweets. And, allegedly, what do some Twitter employees do when they disagree? They shadow-ban you! Ain’t that a turn up for the books?
Here are highlights from the story, written by Hannah Parry for the DailyMail.com:
James O’Keefe, founder of Project Veritas, posted a series of videos of undercover reporters speaking to Twitter staff and former engineers. He claims they show Twitter censoring people with views they disagree with.
Olinda Hassan, a policy manager for Twitter’s Trust and Safety team, was filmed talking about development of a system for ‘down ranking’ ‘shi**y people‘
Abhinov Vadrevu, an ex-Twitter software engineer, discussed ‘shadow banning’ technique meaning that users’ content is quietly blocked without them ever knowing about it. The tool was created to weed out fake bots and scammers but could be open to abuse.
Vadrevu admitted it was ‘risky’ because if people figure out they’ve been shadow banned they would be furious.
He added that he wasn’t sure ‘if Twitter does this any more.’
One Twitter engineer suggested he social network was trying to ‘ban, like, a way of talking’ and ‘anyone found to be aggressive or negative ‘will just vanish’.
Twitter has not yet commented on claims by staff and former employees. But they did respond to another video shot of senior network security engineer Clay Haynes. The clip showed him saying Twitter is ‘more than happy’ to help the Department of Justice ‘in their little investigation’ and would provide all Trump’s messages.
Twitter denounced the ‘deceptive and underhanded tactics by which this footage was obtained and selectively edited’
I’m livid to be honest. I have one account which has never been reinstated. It is now just a personal account, not a business one as it began life. It had accrued over 6,000 followers. That sounds like “chump change” as the Americans call it, to most of you sporting 10k or more followers but for me, that was something. And unlike some have done, I got them all honestly and not through purchasing them or through those annoying follow trains. That Twitter account was built on my brand. I was always careful to never put a foot wrong. I never even used a public curse word! Yes, I sell witchcraft tools. Good, honest traditional witchcraft tools, not spells, nor cures. I never used photos which would indicate prejudice, or sexual content, or anything more untoward than a set of runes. Still, was I one of those “shi**y people” what needed “down ranking”, in accordance to Olinda Hassan?
I still believe my old account had someone else heading up that witch hunt but ultimately it is Twitter’s decision to keep someone snuffed out or allow them their freedoms back. And, they never gave that account its freedom again. Now, as @TheWandCarver, I have been shadow-banned several times. Drop a line to the so-called “support ticket” people and sometimes it worked. BUT…. I think I now realise why Twitter kept the ability to make a bonafide ticket for ghost/shadow banning so non-existent. It’s because they had NO intentions of clearing the people they shadow-banned. They didn’t like what they read, therefore, that person was no longer “seen”.
I am seen now, thankfully, to a few fabulous folk at Twitter. I don’t mean to tar the entire cast of characters with the same brush, because I know, hand on heart, there are some good, honest people at Twitter. But the democratic free world is built upon free speech. I absolutely get that when free speech becomes threatening, racist, vile, religion profiling, it should be stopped on a social media platform built for friends to chat and businesses to flog their wares upon. I have said before that I even agree with Twitter allowing us to police the grounds as it were – if people will use good, honest common sense about it and not send a little family business into No Man’s Land simply because you don’t agree with that little family’s “religion” or what they sell. I’m not a particularly religious person, however, if I have a religion, it is of the Earth. I’m a Pagan and if I remember correctly, it is a recognised religion these days. But let’s not quibble over semantics. No one, NO ONE, has a right to judge another for his or her religion. And, if you’re shadow-banning me because I’m Pagan, tell me, when do you plan on bringing back the Crusades? Let’s just all co-exist peacefully, shall we?
Olinda Hassan… “a policy manager for Twitter’s Trust and Safety team” …Trust and Safety team? So, you, Madame, can arbitrarily scan tweets and see a blurb which doesn’t fit with your standards and with just a flick of a switch, power down that Tweeter’s right to free speech? But trust, Miss Hassan…
“The tool was created to weed out fake bots and scammers but could be open to abuse.”
Let me tell you, it has not done a very good job weeding out ‘fake bots’. Just ask those of us who spend half our time on Twitter trying to rid our followers list of these annoying eggheads. Nowadays, the bot programmers have gotten wise and put a name and a face to their bot accounts, hoping they will get followed or at least left to sit in your follower’s list. I don’t know what these bots are intended to do, but you don’t need them. They are fake followers [please don’t let me start sounding like Trump and his ‘fake news’!] and you should just block them. You’re not harming a nice person’s psyche or their Twitter account by doing so, just ridding yourself of a sneaky bot.
That said, let’s look at the sentence again. ‘The tool was created to weed out fake bots and scammers but could be open to abuse’. Just what I said in previous ghost/shadow banning blogs. Not only have I been a victim of this abuse, but so have many of my friends. I think I became the poster child for ghost-banning on Twitter for as soon as someone found they were no longer “seen”, I would get a DM asking what to do. All I could do is point them to Twitter’s support page, and feeling terrible that I couldn’t do more. I couldn’t say what I suspected…what purpose would it have served? If anything, it may have made me look a bit more of a mad woman than many might have already thought.
“Vadrevu admitted it was ‘risky’ because if people figure out they’ve been shadow banned they would be furious. He added that he wasn’t sure ‘if Twitter does this anymore.’”
Ya think? I know I was furious. And, yes, Twitter does do this still. Just did a ‘from:search’ on an account yesterday to pull up a new tweet of theirs to retweet and their account said: “no results from @nameofaccount” but only the day before it was populated with their tweets. So, yes, indeed, Twitter is still doing this, Mr Vadrevu.
“One Twitter engineer suggested the social network was trying to ‘ban, like, a way of talking’ and ‘anyone found to be aggressive or negative ‘will just vanish’”
I do agree that aggressive and negative behaviour in social media is uncalled for and would like to see an end to it, but whom is judge and jury in this case? And to what degree is the aggressiveness and negativity? In what context is it being used? Are you finding a few certain words and without knowing what the full conversation is about, arbitrarily kicking this Tweeter into touch? If you come into work after a hard lad’s night out, do you read the tweets in their entirety before dropping the axe? Or do you make assumptions?
[more from the same Twitter engineer] “’And whether it’s positive or negative doesn’t (inaudible), it’s more like if somebody’s being aggressive or not. Right? Somebody’s just cursing at somebody, whatever, whatever. They may have point, but it will just vanish… It’s not going to ban the mindset, it’s going to ban, like, a way of talking.’”
Not everything is always as it seems at a glance and I feel that this is sounding more and more “like” it is becoming out of control. This is scary. What’s next? Are people going to “just vanish” because they aren’t agreed with?
“The clip showed him saying Twitter is ‘more than happy’ to help the Department of Justice ‘in their little investigation’ and would provide all Trump’s messages”
Oh, Trump. I’d rather not even speak to this, but I must as I believe in fairness and I couldn’t be fair by leaving this out. I have decided to paste in this part of Ms Parry’s article from DailyMail.com as I just could not paraphrase it any better…and this way you, dear readers, get to see for yourselves…if you haven’t read the article:
Another Twitter engineer claimed that staff already have tools to censor pro-Trump or conservative content.
“Ex-Twitter content review agent Mo Norai revealed last year that Twitter’s alleged left-leaning staff meant that conservative and pro-Trump content was subject to far harsher scrutiny than liberal posts. He added that such decisions on content were never written down ‘but behind closed doors are lots of rules.’
‘A lot of unwritten rules, and being that we’re in San Francisco, we’re in California, very liberal, a very blue state,’ he explained to the undercover reporter on May 16, 2017. ‘You had to be… I mean as a company you can’t really say it because it would make you look bad, but behind closed doors are lots of rules.’
‘There was, I would say… Twitter was probably about 90% Anti-Trump, maybe 99% Anti-Trump.’
Another Project Veritas reporter tracked down Pranay Singh, a direct messaging engineer at Twitter, at a San Francisco bar on January 5. He explained, while dancing, how shadow banning algorithms can work, and how the majority of users who are targeted are Republicans.
‘Yeah you look for Trump, or America, and you have like five thousand keywords to describe a redneck. Then you look and parse all the messages, all the pictures, and then you look for stuff that matches that stuff.’
Another investigation by Project Veritas also hinted at Twitter’s liberal bias after Twitter senior network security engineer Clay Haynes told an undercover reporter Twitter is ‘more than happy to help the Department of Justice in their little investigation’ by providing them with ‘every single tweet that [Trump] has posted, even the ones he’s deleted. Any direct messages, any mentions.’
Haynes described Trump as ‘dangerous’ and ‘a terrible human being and I want to get rid of him.’
In another meeting, at Morton’s Steakhouse in San Francisco on January 7, Haynes said that Twitter has the ability to disclose ‘every single message, every single tweet, whatever you log into, what profile pictures you upload.’ However, when O’Keefe – wearing a disguise – suggests that Haynes could look through Donald Trump and his son’s messages to ‘see what’s in there,’ Haynes made clear that Twitter would only do so as part of a legal process.
I do feel quite against Trump and his belligerent, narcissistic, hell-bent for dictatorship tweets. Never have I felt so nauseated by any human being. However, whilst I am on the anti-Trump, left-leaning side, I do believe that the conservatives, whether I agree with them or not, have every right to have their tweets seen, as well. What happened to transparency? Do you think if you throw a cloak over it that it will go away? Everyone is entitled to their opinion, whether you agree with it or not! How very dare you think it right to allow one and not the other! If people do not want to read Trump’s tweets or the tweets of those who side with him, what about this idea? DON’T GO LOOKING FOR THEM! Simplez.
I believe in free speech, equality, a right to one’s own opinions, to be able to be comfortable and secure in your colour/race/religion/sexual preference. People should never be made to feel inferior or wrong for these things. And there is no way I support any social media who would block the content of valid opinions whether by the left or the right, only because it is not of their personal liking. It is time to grow up, Twitter and Tweeters. As stated earlier, I do not wish to tar everyone with the same brush because I do know that all of this is not the way of the entire company. I’m sure there are some unhappy bosses when this broke. Maybe some folk lost jobs over it, I don’t know. But now is the time to keep a bit better eye on what is going on behind those closed doors.
Common sense and compassion. It’s all you need.
Many thanks for reading and warmest blessings x
**The opinions of this writer are her own and in no way a Twitter employee or relative.