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Friday, June 21, 2024

Twitter shadow bans & blacklists were real – latest #TwitterFiles revelation

After Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter, we are fast learning how Western big tech companies are compromised and manipulated, often by those holding a left-liberal bias which for Bharat translates into an anti-Hindu bias.

The first #TwitterFiles revelation provided by Musk to journalist Matt Taibi showed how Twitter’s former head of legal, public policy, and trust & safety, Indian-American Vijaya Gadde, had played a key role in suppressing a damaging story about US President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden just before the 2020 US elections.

During a 2018 visit to Bharat, Gadde and ex-Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey had also surrounded themselves with anti-Hindu activists & journalists like Sanghapali Aruna, Anna Vetticad, Barkha Dutt while holding up a ‘Smash Brahminical Patriarchy’ poster designed by noxious US-based outfit Equality Labs.

In the second #TwitterFiles revelation, American journalist and editor put out a tweet thread on TWITTER’S SECRET BLACKLISTS 

1. A new #TwitterFiles investigation reveals that teams of Twitter employees build blacklists, prevent disfavored tweets from trending, and actively limit the visibility of entire accounts or even trending topics—all in secret, without informing users. 

2. Twitter once had a mission “to give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers.” Along the way, barriers nevertheless were erected. 

3. Take, for example, Stanford’s Dr. Jay Bhattacharya (@DrJBhattacharya) who argued that Covid lockdowns would harm children. Twitter secretly placed him on a “Trends Blacklist,” which prevented his tweets from trending.

4. Or consider the popular right-wing talk show host, Dan Bongino (@dbongino), who at one point was slapped with a “Search Blacklist.”

5. Twitter set the account of conservative activist Charlie Kirk (@charliekirk11) to “Do Not Amplify.”

6. Twitter denied that it does such things. In 2018, Twitter’s Vijaya Gadde (then Head of Legal Policy and Trust) and Kayvon Beykpour (Head of Product) said: “We do not shadow ban.” They added: “And we certainly don’t shadow ban based on political viewpoints or ideology.” 

7. What many people call “shadow banning,” Twitter executives and employees call “Visibility Filtering” or “VF.” Multiple high-level sources confirmed its meaning. 

8. “Think about visibility filtering as being a way for us to suppress what people see to different levels. It’s a very powerful tool,” one senior Twitter employee told us. 

9. “VF” refers to Twitter’s control over user visibility. It used VF to block searches of individual users; to limit the scope of a particular tweet’s discoverability; to block select users’ posts from ever appearing on the “trending” page; and from inclusion in hashtag searches. 

10. All without users’ knowledge. 

11. “We control visibility quite a bit. And we control the amplification of your content quite a bit. And normal people do not know how much we do,” one Twitter engineer told us. Two additional Twitter employees confirmed. 

12. The group that decided whether to limit the reach of certain users was the Strategic Response Team – Global Escalation Team, or SRT-GET. It often handled up to 200 “cases” a day. 

13. But there existed a level beyond official ticketing, beyond the rank-and-file moderators following the company’s policy on paper. That is the “Site Integrity Policy, Policy Escalation Support,” known as “SIP-PES.” 

14. This secret group included Head of Legal, Policy, and Trust (Vijaya Gadde), the Global Head of Trust & Safety (Yoel Roth), subsequent CEOs Jack Dorsey and Parag Agrawal, and others. 

15. This is where the biggest, most politically sensitive decisions got made. “Think high follower account, controversial,” another Twitter employee told us. For these “there would be no ticket or anything.” 

16. One of the accounts that rose to this level of scrutiny was @libsoftiktok—an account that was on the “Trends Blacklist” and was designated as “Do Not Take Action on User Without Consulting With SIP-PES.”

17. The account—which Chaya Raichik began in November 2020 and now boasts over 1.4 million followers—was subjected to six suspensions in 2022 alone, Raichik says. Each time, Raichik was blocked from posting for as long as a week. 

18. Twitter repeatedly informed Raichik that she had been suspended for violating Twitter’s policy against “hateful conduct.” 

19. But in an internal SIP-PES memo from October 2022, after her seventh suspension, the committee acknowledged that “LTT has not directly engaged in behavior violative of the Hateful Conduct policy.” See here:

20. The committee justified her suspensions internally by claiming her posts encouraged online harassment of “hospitals and medical providers” by insinuating “that gender-affirming healthcare is equivalent to child abuse or grooming.” 

21. Compare this to what happened when Raichik herself was doxxed on November 21, 2022. A photo of her home with her address was posted in a tweet that has garnered more than 10,000 likes. 

22. When Raichik told Twitter that her address had been disseminated she says Twitter Support responded with this message: “We reviewed the reported content, and didn’t find it to be in violation of the Twitter rules.” No action was taken. The doxxing tweet is still up.

23. In internal Slack messages, Twitter employees spoke of using technicalities to restrict the visibility of tweets and subjects. Here’s Yoel Roth, Twitter’s then Global Head of Trust & Safety, in a direct message to a colleague in early 2021:

24. Six days later, in a direct message with an employee on the Health, Misinformation, Privacy, and Identity research team, Roth requested more research to support expanding “non-removal policy interventions like disabling engagements and deamplification/visibility filtering.”

25. Roth wrote: “The hypothesis underlying much of what we’ve implemented is that if exposure to, e.g., misinformation directly causes harm, we should use remediations that reduce exposure, and limiting the spread/virality of content is a good way to do that.” 

26. He added: “We got Jack on board with implementing this for civic integrity in the near term, but we’re going to need to make a more robust case to get this into our repertoire of policy remediations – especially for other policy domains.” 

27. There is more to come on this story, which was reported by  @AbigailShrier  @ShellenbergerMD @NellieBowles @IsaacGrafstein and the team The Free Press @TheFP. Keep up with this unfolding story here and at our brand new website: thefp.com.

28. The authors have broad and expanding access to Twitter’s files. The only condition we agreed to was that the material would first be published on Twitter. 

29. We’re just getting started on our reporting. Documents cannot tell the whole story here. A big thank you to everyone who has spoken to us so far. If you are a current or former Twitter employee, we’d love to hear from you. Please write to: [email protected] 

30. Watch @mtaibbi for the next installment. 

Twitter censorship at behest of American politicians

In another Twitter thread, Matt Taibbi revealed how requests to Twitter from both the Trump White House and the Biden campaign for the platform to delete certain tweets were honored by the company during the 2020 presidential election, but there were more avenues for Democrats to request censorship as Twitter employees tended to lean liberal and the system of censorship was based on contacts.

“In an early conception, Twitter more than lived up to its mission statement, giving people ‘the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers,’” Taibbi wrote, adding, “As time progressed, however, the company was slowly forced to add those barriers. Some of the first tools for controlling speech were designed to combat the likes of spam and financial fraudsters.”

He added, “Slowly, over time, Twitter staff and executives began to find more and more uses for these tools. Outsiders began petitioning the company to manipulate speech as well: first a little, then more often, then constantly.”

By 2020, he wrote, “requests from connected actors to delete tweets were routine. One executive would write to another: ‘More to review from the Biden team.’ The reply would come back: ‘Handled.’”

He said “celebrities and unknowns” alike could be removed “at the behest of a political party,” but, “This system wasn’t balanced. It was based on contacts. Because Twitter was and is overwhelmingly staffed by people of one political orientation, there were more channels, more ways to complain, open to the left (well, Democrats) than the right.” 

The journalist calls his Twitter deep dive a “Frankensteinian tale of a human-built mechanism grown out the control of its designer.”

It has also emerged that under likes to Vijaya Gadde and Jack Dorsey, twitter had also refused to take down child porn even as victim’s parents begged for its removal.

Musk fires Ex-FBI lawyer working at Twitter, expresses assassination fear

Another controversial figure who has just been fired from Twitter is deputy general counsel Jim Baker, who was formerly a lawyer with FBI, USA’s premier federal law enforcement body. Baker was fired for surreptitiously vetting and reviewing internal files that Musk had ordered be released to journalists Taibbi and Weiss. During his stint at FBI, Baker was involved in several controversial investigations targeting former President Trump, allegedly at behest of Democrats. He was also hired as a legal analyst by liberal media outlet CNN.

Ever since his takeover of Twitter, Musk has been targeted by the US establishment and left-liberal ecosystem in a concerted manner using scripted and emotive language. After the first batch of TwitterFiles was released, Musk, who calls himself a free speech absolutist, had expressed fears that he might even be assassinated.

“Frankly the risk of something bad happening to me, or even literally being shot, is quite significant. It’s not that hard to kill somebody if you wanted to, so hopefully they don’t, and fate smiles upon the situation with me and it does not happen….There’s definitely some risk there. At the end of the day, we just want to have a future where we’re not oppressed. (Where) our speech is not suppressed, and we can say what we want to say without fear of reprisals,” he said.

“I am definitely not going to be doing any open-air car parades,” Musk added, alluding to the assassination of former US President Kennedy, a crime which has remained an enduring mystery for Americans and where a CIA hand has also been spoken of.

Conclusion

Musk must be applauded for exposing the inner workings of Twitter and standing up for his ideals. But it would be foolish to expect that he will be able to keep the platform totally free of the pressures that the American establishment has already started to bear down on him. He is, after all, a businessman and an American. His company StarLink is playing a key role in providing Internet service to war-torn Ukraine, a war that many believe was triggered by the bipartisan American agenda of pushing NATO eastwards overriding Russian concerns.

What we are finding out now about Twitter was long suspected. Many pro-Hindu and pro-Dharma accounts on the platform have been shadow banned and suppressed, not least of them being @TrueIndology.

But Twitter is not an anomaly – all big tech platforms, including Facebook, YouTube, Google, Apple, exhibit the same bias and are deeply susceptible to manipulation by US government and deep state. Ed Snowden showed us that there is really nothing called ‘digital privacy’ and US electronic surveillance agency NSA captures and data mines a staggering amount of information across the world.

We need to take digital sovereignty seriously, and enforce tough laws to keep Western big tech in check while simultaneously building world-class digital platforms for search engine, social media, e-commerce as well as other hardware/software components. China has shown the way, and it will need similar national commitment and long-term vision to ensure we do not end up as a digital colony, susceptible to covert manipulation by foreign powers and fifth columnists.

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