A group of investigative journalists (under Project Veritas) has released an undercover footage of Twitter engineers and employees talking about how they censor content they disagree with – and without the user ever knowing.
The footage features four current Twitter software engineers – Conrado Miranda, Clay Haynes, Pranay Singh, and Mihai Alexandru Florea.
James O’Keefe, founder of Project Veritas, posted a video showing an undercover reporter speaking to Abhinav Vadrevu, a former Twitter software engineer, at a San Francisco restaurant on January 3. Vadrevu is seen talking about ‘shadow banning’ – a technique that means that the content of the users is quietly blocked without them ever knowing about it. It also means that their tweets wouldn’t appear in search results or anywhere else on Twitter, but the tweets would still appear to their followers.
Vadrevu called it a risky affair and said that people would be enraged if they found that they’ve been shadow banned.
However, he also said that he is not sure if the practice is still going on.
“One strategy is to shadow ban so you have ultimate control. 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.”
Olinda Hassan, a policy manager for Twitter’s Trust and Safety team, too talked about how the social network was developing an automated system for ‘down ranking’ ‘shi**y people’. The video was filmed on December 15.
Another Twitter engineer had claimed that there are tools to censor pro-Trump or conservative content. One Twitter engineer said anyone found to be aggressive or negative ‘will just vanish.’
Ex-Twitter content review agent Mo Norai revealed last year that Twitter’s alleged left-leaning staff meant that conservative and pro-Trump content was subject to far harsher scrutiny than liberal posts.
While discussing the development of an automated censure system, Twitter software engineer Steven Pierre said that “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.”
In the past, Twitter has been accused of “shadowbanning” people, but the micro-blogging site has always maintained that they do not have a political reason to decide upon this. They also said that these claims are factually incorrect and misleading as portrayed by Project Veritas.