Jul 26, 2018

Go deeper: Twitter's supposed conservative "shadow ban"

Photo: Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Some Republicans are seeing limited visibility of their accounts in Twitter's automated search box, Vice News reports. Conservatives have seized on the story — even though experts say that it does not prove ideological bias on the platform.

The big picture: Conservatives have claimed for years that social media platforms are biased against them, but Twitter has denied that it has targeted any specific group. A New York Law School professor, Ari Ezra Waldman, told Vice that this isn't indicative "of anti-conservative bias since some Republicans still appear and some don't. This just appears to be a cluster of conservatives who have been affected."

What they're saying:

  • President Trump: "Twitter 'SHADOW BANNING' prominent Republicans. Not good. We will look into this discriminatory and illegal practice at once! Many complaints."
  • RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel: "The notion that social media companies would suppress certain political points of view should concern every American. Twitter owes the public answers to what's really going on."
  • Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, who says his account was affected: "I firmly believe @Twitter should not discriminate against content while simultaneously asserting that they are a non-biased public forum under federal law.
  • Donald Trump Jr.: "So now @twitter is censoring @GOPChairwoman? Enough is enough with this crap. @Jack it's time for you to #StopTheBias against conservatives and Trump supporters and fix this once and for all."
  • Bloomberg tech reporter Selina Wang: "Twitter says tech makes decisions based on account behavior, not tweet content. Even so, not great optics rn for Twitter to have shadow-banned some prominent Republicans, esp. after two hearings were held on social media censoring conservative voices."
  • Renee DiResta, policy lead for Data For Democracy: "The premise of the article was that certain possibly-shadowbanned accounts were hit *because* they were Republican. No evidence presented that affiliation/content (vs behavior) was the cause. The baseless narrative was picked up by Sputnik & some sketchy accounts last night."

Twitter denied the allegations:

  • A Twitter spokesperson told Politico tech reporter Cristiano Lima: "As we have said before, we do not shadowban. We are aware that some accounts are not automatically populating in our search box, and shipping a change to address this. ... To be clear, our behavioral ranking doesn't make judgments based on political views or the substance of Tweets."
  • Twitter product lead Kayvon Beykpour tweeted: "We're always working to improve our behavior-based ranking models - their breadth and accuracy will improve over time. It's important to note that these behavior signals are not binary, and they are one of many other signals that factor into ranking."

And New York Magazine's Brian Feldman reported that Twitter's technique is similar to something Facebook has done previously.

  • Facebook's best attempt to "dispel information from places like InfoWars...was to secretly minimize their distribution in the site's News Feed."
  • "[T]his sort of moderation isn’t shadow banning. ... To the extent that this is even a problem, it’s pretty easy to buy Twitter’s explanation that this is a side effect of a minimal measure designed to make sure that people aren’t preemptively encouraged to consume bad information from dubious sources."

Go deeper

World coronavirus updates: Confirmed cases top 1 million

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

Novel coronavirus infections have hit the 1 million mark after "near exponential growth" that's reached "almost every country," World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Thursday.

The big picture: The global death toll exceeded 50,000 on Thursday, per Johns Hopkins data. Italy has reported nearly 14,000 deaths. Governments around the world have introduced public health and economic measures to try and curb the impact of the virus.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 12 mins ago - Health

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 6 p.m. ET: 1,007,997 — Total deaths: 52,771 — Total recoveries: 210,055Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 6 p.m. ET: 236,339 — Total deaths: 5,648 — Total recoveries: 8,861Map.
  3. 2020 update: The Democratic National Committee said its July convention will be postponed until August because of the coronavirus.
  4. Jobs latest: The coronavirus unemployment numbers are like a natural disaster hitting every state
  5. Public health latest: FDA allows blood donations from gay men after 3-month waiting period, citing "urgent need."
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  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
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Judge declines to delay Wisconsin April 7 primary, extends absentee deadline

Photo: Darren Hauck/Getty Images

A federal judge on Thursday declined to delay Wisconsin's April 7 primary election, saying he doesn't have the authority to do so.

Why it matters: Wisconsin is the only state scheduled to vote next Tuesday that has not yet delayed its primary.