Social media has grown from a simple means of communicating online to a fully functional platform for sharing news and expressing different viewpoints for the world to see.
That is, if those viewpoints are something that the creators of the site agree with.
Since social media became a tool used to promote certain political ideologies at various points along the spectrum, there have been concerns about whether the powers behind Twitter and other sites would use algorithms to help promote their own biases.
A recent interview with a former Twitter employee seemed to confirm this practice. It’s a technique known as shadow banning, and it’s an insidious and sneaky way of implementing censorship without being caught in the act.
“One strategy is to shadow ban so you have ultimate control,” said Abhinov Vadrevu. “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.”
The strategy allows people to like and favorite posts, but stops them from ever getting any exposure. The former employee also expressed fears about how it would look if the news ever broke, knowing that it would lead to bad press. Reddit has also been accused of using similar tactics to promote agendas and maintain certain biases.
Pro-Trump accounts, and accounts that deal with conservative or Christian ideas were among the ones targeted in the scheme.
This isn’t the first time Twitter’s bias has shone through. The company was also accused of promoting misinformation concerning the 2016 election, and again surpassing information about certain viewpoints. The actions they took then align with the ones now, appearing to show a calculated effort over a long period of time.
After WikiLeaks revealed information about DNC corruption and election rigging, Twitter reportedly suppressed about half the tweets on said topic. They did, however, continue to promote the Russian hacking narrative against the current administration – which, to this day, has not amassed any credible evidence beyond speculation and hearsay.
If the site is found guilty of blocking certain views that don’t align with their own preferences, there are several ways the fallout could go. On one hand, Twitter could maintain that they’re a private company with the right to censor whatever they want on their own site. The only problem with this stance is their desire to hide their actions.
Twitter may also find itself facing legal action for attempting to promote narratives and giving special privileges to those who agree with them while punishing those who don’t. It may be a stretch, but Twitter may even find itself regulated like a public utility if some legal efforts are successful.
Most people think twice about the reality they’re presented with in cyber space, knowing how easily data can be manipulated. If these releases prove anything, it’s that not everything is at is seems in the world of social media.