by Debra Heine · January 9, 2018
No, you weren’t being paranoid. Everything you ever suspected about Twitter censoring right-wing opinions through “shadow bans” is true. In his latest sting, conservative muckracker James O’Keefe caught eight current and former Twitter employees admitting on camera that they engage in the practice.
Twitter tries to present itself as a politically neutral media platform, but as this latest Project Veritas bombshell video confirms, it is anything but.
Abhinav Vadrevu, a former Twitter software engineer, explained how “shadow banning” works at a San Francisco restaurant on January 3, 2018.
“One strategy is to shadow ban so you have ultimate control,” he explained. “The idea of a shadow ban is that you ban someone but they don’t know they’ve been banned, because they keep posting and no one sees their content. So they just think that no one is engaging with their content, when in reality, no one is seeing it.”
According to a current Twitter employee, software engineer Steven Pierre, the social media giant is in the process of weaponizing the practice of censorship through automation.
“Every single conversation is going to be rated by a machine and the machine is going to say whether or not it’s a positive thing or a negative thing,” Pierre told a Project Veritas undercover journalist on December 8, 2017. “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.”
Twitter is also in the process of developing a system for “down ranking” what Olinda Hassan, a policy manager for Twitter’s Trust and Safety team, calls “shitty people.”
“Yeah. That’s something we’re working on,” Hassan told the Veritas journalist. “It’s something we’re working on. We’re trying to get the shitty people to not show up. It’s a product thing we’re working on right now.”
If Twitter is just trying to filter out bullies and trolls who add nothing to the conversation, that’s one thing, but if they are also trying to censor pro-Trump or conservative content on the platform, that’s a whole ‘nother ball of wax.
Twitter Engineer Conrado Miranda told Project Veritas on December 1, 2017, that censoring conservatives is indeed “a thing.”
According to O’Keefe, Twitter Content Review Agent Mo Norai admitted on May 16, 2017, that “in the past Twitter would manually ban or censor Pro-Trump or conservative content.” Asked about the process of banning accounts, Norai said, “On stuff like that it was more discretion on your view point, I guess how you felt about a particular matter…”
In other words, it was totally subjective, and given the overwhelmingly left-wing ideological make-up of most techies in Silicon Valley, conservative Twitter users were/are at their mercy.
Norai explained how the process went when he was with the company: “Yeah, if they said this is ‘Pro-Trump,’ I don’t want it because it offends me … and I say I banned this whole thing, and it goes over here and they are like, ‘Oh you know what? I don’t like it too. You know what? Mo’s right, let’s go, let’s carry on, what’s next?’”
Left-leaning content would pass their selection process with less political scrutiny, according to Norai: “It would come through checked and then I would be like ‘Oh you know what? This is okay. Let it go.’”
These were unwritten rules that everyone understood, Norai explained.
“A lot of unwritten rules, and being that we’re in San Francisco, we’re in California, very liberal, a very blue state. 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.” He added that “there was, I would say… Twitter was probably about 90% Anti-Trump, maybe 99% Anti-Trump.”
Yet another Twitter employee, Direct Messaging Engineer Pranay Singh, explained how shadow-banning algorithms are engineered.
“Yeah you look for Trump, or America, and you have like five thousand keywords to describe a redneck,” Singh explained at a San Francisco bar on January 5. “Then you look and parse all the messages, all the pictures, and then you look for stuff that matches that stuff.”
Let that sink in. Among Twitter employees, the words, Trump and America are considered “redneck.”
When Project Veritas asked Singh if the majority of the algorithms are targeted against conservative or liberal Twitter users, he admitted, “I would say majority of it are for Republicans.”
This is Part Two of Project Veritas’ undercover investigation of Twitter and the fourth installment of its “American Pravda” series:
“How will @jack try to spin this one?” O’Keefe tweeted, meaning Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey . “Last video they said ‘the individual’ in the video didn’t represent Twitter. This video has 8 individuals! And we’re not done yet!”
As O’Keefe mentioned in the video, more videos featuring additional employees are on the way.
“What kind of world do we live in where computer engineers are the gatekeepers of the ‘way people talk?’” O’Keefe said in a statement. “This investigation brings forth information of profound public importance that educates people about how free they really are to express their views online.”
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