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What is Shadow Banning and Why is Being Twitter Accused of Doing It

What is Shadow Banning and Why is Being Twitter Accused of Doing It?

President Trump sent out a tweet at the end of July that read — “Twitter ‘SHADOW BANNING’ prominent Republicans. Not good. We will look into this discriminatory and illegal practice at once! Many complaints.” In light of allegations that Twitter has shadow banned certain individuals, PeerSource interviewed 30-year veteran of Information Technology — Ajay Menendez — who is an expert in cybersecurity. Menendez broke down what shadow banning is, how easily it can be done and the ethical dilemmas faced by those in the tech world.

“Shadow banning is the concept where websites, forums and apps either delist, hide or make it so that an account's content cannot be found,” he explained.

“It might be just difficult to find, require hyper-specific hashtags or search keywords, or make content simply invisible. It does, however, appear to the content creator that the work has been posted,” he added.

Twitter attempted to set the record straight and denied claims that it has shadow banned certain users. In a July statement, the company — reportedly worth $24.6 billion — gave an inside look into its system for ranking tweets and search results. The process is intended to keep newsfeeds timely and relevant.

The social media platform takes three core criteria into account when it is ranking tweets. Twitter reported — “Tweets from bad-faith actors who intend to manipulate or divide the conversation should be ranked lower.” This piece of criteria has gotten the company into trouble and caused critics to question how an organization can objectively identify “bad-faith actors.”

Twitter pointed to three signals that it looks for when determining who should fall into this group:

1. 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)

2.What actions you take on Twitter (e.g. who you follow, who you retweet, etc)

3. How other accounts interact with you (e.g. who mutes you, who follows you, who retweets you, who blocks you, etc)

Ajay Menendez — Executive Director of the HUNT Analyst Program at SecureSet — told PeerSource that in his view, it is reasonable that sites have to monitor content and attempt to keep the majority of the user base happy. “This is a tricky area, but Twitter reserves the right to keep the peace.”

Much of this debate boils down to intention, which is very difficult to prove. Determining who is purposely dividing conversation is subjective. “How do we tell whether someone is being sarcastic or passive-aggressive, especially when they claim not to be doing so? Determining what is what is like splitting hairs,” the cybersecurity expert said.

President Trump’s tweet vowing to look into accusations of shadowing banning has started a wildfire of conversations in the technology industry.

“It is not the government's responsibility to interfere with individual corporations and the content on their sites unless it breaks a law,” Menendez said.

Individuals may have a hard time proving that they have indeed been shadow banned.

“The only way is to create an alternate account or borrow someone else's account and see if your content is available and easy to find. If the availability of the content is different, something might be amiss,” Menendez advises social media users.

PeerSource will continue to report on the issue of shadow banning.

By Samantha Snellings 8-24-2018

CATEGORIES: Denver Colorado, PeerSource, Recruiting, Samantha Snellings, Sami Snellings, SecureSet, Shadow Banning, Technology

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