The second set of “Twiter Files” released on Thursday revealed how social media employees targeted conservative accounts such as Libs of TikTok.
The new files showed how a team of employees built a blacklist and secretly prevented users’ tweets on the list from going viral. According to the independent journalist Bari Weiss, employees at Twitter prevented disfavoured tweets from trending. Weiss released the new set of files on her Twitter account.
Weiss added that Twitter employees also limited the visibility of entire accounts and, in some cases, trending topics. All this was done in secret without the knowledge of users. Internal Slack messages also showed employees discussing how they used technicalities to restrict the visibility of tweets and subjects.
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.
— Bari Weiss (@bariweiss) December 9, 2022
The files revealed Twitter employees shadow-banned the account of Stamford University’s Dr. Jay Bhattacharya. Employees added Bhattacharya to a “Trends Blacklist,” effectively preventing his tweets from trending because he argued that lockdowns harmed children.
Twitter employees also placed talk show host Dan Bongino on a “Search Blacklist,” while Charlie Kirk’s account was added to a “Do Not Amplify” list.
Weiss also revealed that Twitter had a “Site Integrity Policy, Policy Escalation Support,” known as “SIP-PES.” This secret team existed beyond the rank-and-file moderators following the company’s policy on paper. According to Weiss, SIP-PES is where the “most politically sensitive decisions” were made.
One of the accounts that rose to the level of scrutiny that would require the attention of SIP-PES was Libs of Tiktok. The account was on the “Trends Blacklist” and was designated as “Do Not Take Action on User Without Consulting With SIP-PES.”
Chaya Raichik began the Libs of TikTok account in November 2020. Twitter suspended the account six times in 2022 alone, according to Raichik. Twitter claimed the account had violated its policy against “hateful conduct.” However, an internal SIP-PES memo from October 2022 showed the group admitted that the account has not engaged in any behavior that violates Twitter’s Hateful Conduct policy.
Top executives at Twitter had previously released a statement saying they do not shadow-ban user accounts.
“We do not shadow ban.” Twitter executives said. “And we certainly don’t shadow ban based on political viewpoints or ideology.”
Weiss revealed what many called shadow-banning is what Twitter executives and employees call “Visibility Filtering” or “VF.”
“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 Weiss.