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Shadow Banning - Using AI To Control Free Speech in America

Written by Louisa Forrest

Bits Binary Code Binary System Binary Byte 475664Congressmen, Republicans, Christians, and conservatives alike are crying foul, calling out Twitter for shadow-banning them and effectively severing communication ties with their followers. President Trump himself has jumped into the fray, tweeting the following:

"Twitter “SHADOW BANNING” prominent Republicans. Not good. We will look into this discriminatory and illegal practice at once! Many complaints."

What is shadow-banning exactly? When Twitter uses shadow-banning, it causes a person's tweets to be hidden from their followers' Twitter feeds. The tweeter sees his/her own tweet, but followers can not. The tweeter believes his/her posts are going out to followers. Followers believe that the tweeter has gone silent. This deception is not apparent to the tweeter or the follower. Make no mistake, shadow-banning is used to control free speech and silence people in the public forum.

Shadow-banning is accomplished through the use of screening algorithms which in turn result in the loss of functionality within the Twitterverse for those found in violation of Twitter's rules for 'healthy' conversation. The offender's tweets can only be seen by going directly to the offender's Twitter page - if you can find it. Searches are also affected by Twitter's algorithms.

What about the algorithms that Twitter uses? New Twitter algorithms were announced on May 15th via a tweet from the 'Twitter Safety' staff:

"Today we are introducing new behavior-based signals into how Tweets are organized and presented in areas like conversations and search. This is to improve the health of the conversation and improve everyone’s Twitter experience."

In his tweet of July 25th, Kayvon Beykpour of Twitter puts it this way:

"In May, we started using behavioral signals and machine learning to reduce people’s ability to detract from healthy public conversation on Twitter. This approach looks at account behavior & interactions with other accounts that violate our rules."

Twitter admits that it uses 'behavior signals','machine learning',and algorithms to enforce its rules for healthy conversation. Twitter denies that it's moderators are deliberately silencing people based on their politics or religious speech. Moreover, Twitter blames any perceived 'shadow-banning' as the unintended consequences of a 'bug'. Obviously something unseemly is going on here.

Does the use of AI relieve Twitter of its responsibility to the users of its public platform? No. Even if Twitter moderators are not directly calling balls and strikes, their algorithms are.