Twitter Files Part Two Reveals ‘Visibility Filtering’ Used at Highest Levels to ‘Suppress What People See’

Bari Weiss, the founder and editor of The Free Press, posted part two of the Twitter files Thursday night, titled “Twitter’s Secret Blacklists,” which filtered users’ visibility of content.

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“Twitter once had a mission ‘to give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers,” Weiss tweeted. “Along the way, though, barriers were erected.”

She said Stanford’s Dr. Jay Bhattacharya claimed that COVID lockdowns would harm children, and as a result Twitter “secretly” put him on a “Trends Blacklist”, preventing his tweets from trending. Bhattacharya did not respond to requests for further information about his knowledge of the blacklist on Thursday.

Other users blacklisted included talk show host and Fox News contributor Dan Bongino and conservative activist Charlie Kirk.

Twitter denied it blacklists people, according to Weiss, and in 2018 Twitter’s Vijaya Gadde, then head of legal policy and trust, said with Kayvon Beykpour, head of product, “We don’t shade bans … and we shade certainly not bans based on political views or ideology.”

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Then-Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey made a similar statement on Twitter on July 26, 2018, adding “We rank tweets by default to make Twitter more immediately relevant (which can be turned off).”

While not admitting to “shadow bans,” Weiss said managers and employees use the term “Visibility filtering.”

“Think of visibility filtering as a way for us to suppress what people see at different levels. It’s also a very powerful one,” said Weiss, a senior Twitter employee.

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Visibility filtering is Twitter’s control over user visibility, Weiss tweeted, and it used the switch to block searches by individual users, limiting the extent of a particular tweet’s visibility; blocked posts by certain users from ever appearing on the “trending” page; and blocked them from hashtag searches without the user ever knowing.

“We control visibility quite a bit,” a Twitter engineer admitted, and two Twitter employees confirmed to Weiss. “And we control the amplification of your content quite a bit. And normal people don’t know how much we do.”

Twitter also created the Strategic Response Team – Global Escalation Team, or SRT-GET, which managed up to 200 cases a day and decided whether to limit how much reach certain users had.

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Weiss said there was another level beyond that, called Site Integrity Policy, Policy Escalation Support, or SIP-PES.

SIP-PES included Gadde, Yoel Roth, who served as the global head of trust and security, and subsequent CEOs Jack Dorsey and Parag Agrawal.

This group made the “most politically sensitive decisions,” Weiss said.

“Think high follower count, controversial,” a Twitter employee said, adding that there was no ticket or anything for those decisions.

Weiss also published internal Slack messages regarding the company’s ability to limit the visibility of tweets.

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“The hypothesis behind much of what we’ve implemented is that if exposure to, say, misinformation directly causes harm, we should use mitigations that reduce exposure, and limiting the spread/virality of content is a good way to do it on,” Roth said. “We got Jack to implement this for civic integrity in the short term, but we’ll need to make a more robust case to get this into our repertoire of policy improvement — especially for other policy domains.”

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