- Twitter’s algorithm change meant to punish “bad-faith actors” suppressed several Republican congressmen’s visibility on the site.
- Two Twitter executives blamed the “bad-faith” accounts engaging with GOP congressmen’s Twitter accounts for the politicians’ dip in visibility.
- Twitter has since restored the congressmen’s visibility on the site, but the “bad faith” criteria remain.
- Twitter denied engaging in “shadow banning,” but defined the term differently than Vice News did in their investigation.
Several Republican congressmen’s Twitter accounts were suppressed this week because users that Twitter is actively trying to suppress engaged with the congressmen’s handles, two top Twitter executives said in a Thursday evening blog post.
Twitter executives Vijaya Gadde and Kayvon Beykpour conceded in a Thursday evening blog post that Twitter’s algorithm had limited the Republican congressmen’s visibility on the site because it linked them to what the company calls “bad-faith actors.”
Twitter, in May, began phasing in a change to its algorithm to suppress Twitter users who the company said stop short of violating Twitter’s terms of service, but are still considered harmful to “healthy conversation.” The new algorithm, Twitter said, would discriminate against those “bad-faith actors” by hiding their visibility in conversations and searches.
Although Twitter said the algorithm change wasn’t politically motivated, it soon became political in effect.
Republican Reps. Matt Gaetz of Florida, Mark Meadows of North Carolina and Jim Jordan of Ohio all had their visibility in searches suppressed, a Vice News investigation published Wednesday found. Democrats were not similarly affected by the change, Vice found.
Gadde and Beykpour, the two Twitter executives, on Thursday revealed three “signals” that Twitter uses to identify “bad-faith actors”:
- Specific account properties that indicate authenticity (e.g. whether you have a confirmed email address, how recently your account was created, whether you uploaded a profile image, etc)
- What actions you take on Twitter (e.g. who you follow, who you retweet, etc)
- How other accounts interact with you (e.g. who mutes you, who follows you, who retweets you, who blocks you, etc)
That third “signal” is what led Twitter’s algorithm to hide the visibility of the Republican accounts, which Twitter has since reversed.
The suppression of Republican congressmen’s accounts “had more to do with how other people were interacting with these representatives’ accounts than the accounts themselves,” Gadde and Beykpour wrote.
Twitter’s algorithm likely suppressed the Republican congressmen because the wrong accounts “engaged” with theirs, they said.
“There are communities that try to boost each other’s presence on the platform through coordinated engagement,” the Twitter executives wrote.
“We believe these types of actors engaged with the representatives’ accounts — the impact of this coordinated behavior, in combination with our implementation of search auto-suggestions, caused the representatives’ accounts to not show up in auto-suggestions.”
The Twitter executives denied that their companies suppression of certain users amounted to a “shadow-ban,” which is how Vice described the technique.
The two executives admitted that Twitter is consciously limiting the visibility of certain users — but denied that doing so amounts to a “shadow-ban,” which they defined more narrowly as “deliberately making someone’s content undiscoverable to everyone except the person who posted it, unbeknownst to the original poster.”
Twitter’s press office did not return multiple inquiries from The Daily Caller News Foundation. (RELATED: Twitter CEO Caves To Liberal Backlash, Apologizes For Eating Chick-fil-A)
Before Twitter restored his account’s visibility, Gaetz threatened to file a Federal Election Commission (FEC) complaint against the social media company.
“The evidence is piling up that I am being treated differently on Twitter than people on the political Left and I don’t like that because I enjoy the Twitter platform. I enjoy the engagement. I enjoy the candor,” Gaetz told TheDCNF on Wednesday.
“I would think that having won my election with 69 percent of the vote to serve in the Congress that the marketplace of ideas could accommodate my views,” the congressman continued.
“I am contemplating a complaint with the FEC, because if my political opponents have better access to the Twitter platform than I do, that’s no different than a private company giving my political opponents access to a billboard or television time or radio time. That wouldn’t be equal,” he said.
“So I believe that Twitter may have illegally donated to the campaigns of my opponents by prejudicing against my content.”
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