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9 Dec, 2022

The Twitter Files 2: Twitter’s Secret Blacklists

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Musk, through Weiss, releases The Twitter Files Part 2, subtitled ‘Twitter’s Secret Blacklists (also called, as a joke, ‘Part Deux’ by Musk), detailing how Twitter executives and staff used internal committees and tools to blacklist and restrict access to certain Twitter accounts in secret.

Such actions were called Visibility Filtering (VF) and included blocking searches of individual users; limiting the scope of a particular tweet’s discoverability; blocking select users’ posts from ever appearing on the “trending” page and from inclusion in hashtag searches. In internal messages, Twitter employees also spoke of using technicalities to restrict the visibility of tweets and subjects.

Users did not know about these techniques. In 2018, Vijaya Gadde (then Head of Legal Policy and Trust) and Kayvon Beykpour (Head of Product) said:

We do not shadow ban.

Twitter employee:

Think about visibility filtering as being a way for us to suppress what people see to different levels. It’s a very powerful tool. 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,

Weiss details several accounts that were restricted, including conservative activist Charlie Kirk, who was set to “Do Not Amplify”; Stanford’s Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, who argued that Covid lockdowns would harm children, was put on a “Trends Blacklist”; and the right-wing talk show host, Dan Bongino was restricted using a “Search Blacklist”.

The Files include details about two internal committes: The first group, known as the SRT-GE (Strategic Response Team – Global Escalation Team) decided whether to limit the reach of certain users. It often handled up to 200 “cases” a day. The second, which was only for the largest, most politcally-sensitive decisions, was known as SIP-PES (Site Integrity Policy, Policy Escalation Support), which included Gadde, Yoel Roth (Global Head of Trust & Safety), subsequent CEOs Jack Dorsey and Parag Agrawal, and others. This group operated outside of Twitter’s normal abuse ticketing system,

This latter group restricted the account of @libsoftiktok, subjecting its owner to six suspensions for ‘Hateful Conduct’, despite the committe knowing that LTT has not directly engaged in behavior that violated the Hateful Conduct policy. Weiss contrasts this with Twitter taking no action over posts that revealed the account owner’s home photo and address.