At the start of the year, Twitter officially made shadowbanning, a controversial practice that involves limiting the distribution or visibility of user posts in a way that’s difficult to detect, part of its terms of service.
Now new leaked screenshots from Motherboard appear to show an internal Twitter user administration tool that can be used by Twitter staff to blacklist user accounts from search and trends.
The screenshots show details about the target user’s account, such as whether the account has been suspended, is permanently suspended, or has protected status. They also show several other tags including a “Trends Blacklist” tag and a “Search Blacklist” tag.
Two of Motherboard’s sources who provided the screenshots claim that the internal panel shown in these screenshots is used by Twitter workers to interact with user accounts.
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Several Twitter users have accused Twitter of shadowbanning their tweets this year.
In June, the pop culture satirical news account Price of Reason documented how Twitter had shadowbanned one of its viral tweets that made fun of HBO Max’s controversial decision to stop Bugs Bunny’s hunter adversary Elmer Fudd using a gun in its Looney Tunes remake.
The account owner noticed a drastic slowdown in engagement after his tweet had started to go viral and discovered that he was being blacklisted from Twitter search, causing both his account and the tweet to be scrubbed from search results.
“It’s as if neither it or I ever existed,” Price of Reason told Reclaim The Net.
While Twitter made shadowbanning official from January 1 of this year, undercover video from a January 2018 Project Veritas report shows a former Twitter engineer discussing the tactic almost two years before it was added to the terms.
In the video, the former Twitter engineer, Abhinov Vadrevu, states: “One strategy is to shadowban so that you have ultimate control.”
In the same video, former Twitter executive Olinda Hassan states: “It’s something we’re working on. We’re trying to get the sh*tty people not to show up. It’s a product thing we’re working on.”
Project Veritas had its Twitter ads account banned because of this video almost two years later in November 2019.