Last week, Donald Trump accused Twitter of shadowbanning many prominent Republicans in the United States. So what is shadowbanning and why is it a serious matter?
Shadow banning is not a new term that the American President cooked up like many other things. In fact, it has been around for more than a decade, and it exists on almost all online community.
Imagine that you are having a pleasant conversation in a forum with some friends and suddenly, someone comes in and starts spamming everyone with links or trolling.
The affected users can report to the forum admin like how we report accounts on social media platforms. After verifying that the report is indeed valid, the admin will proceed to put a shadowban to the specific account. This turns the users of those reported accounts into a ghost where no one can see their posts, except their current followers or fans.
They will also be dropped out of searches, which make them exist only in their world.
Why don’t they remove their accounts?
The immediate drastic measure that comes to mind is to kick these people out of any online community like how we kill cockroaches. However, similar to cockroaches, they keep coming back.
Hence, by shadowbanning them, it could prevent them from creating a new account to troll online users but only if they are not informed of the ban. Some online platforms do inform these users of the ban or suspend their accounts like what Reddit does.
Another possible reason is to keep a high user rate. We all know that statistics is essential when it comes to social media platforms or forums. The more people you have, the more valuable your forum is.
Is it true that Republicans are shadowbanned?
Although there’s really such a term called shadowban, it’s not what happened to the Republicans. Their accounts are still visible and searchable.
The reason why many Republicans are not appearing on searches could be because of the algorithm embedded in the Twitter platform. The auto-complete function on the social media platform often shows popular accounts when keywords are used. However, if accounts are often flagged as trolls, spams or having negative behaviour. Hence, this could be the reason for the hide.
Twitter responded to the accusation with a company blog post to clarify the situation.
“We do rank tweets and search results. We do this because Twitter is most useful when it’s immediately relevant. These ranking models take many signals into consideration to best organize tweets for timely relevance. We must also address bad-faith actors who intend to manipulate or detract from healthy conversation.”
“…We believe the issue had more to do with how other people were interacting with these representatives’ accounts than the accounts themselves. There are communities that try to boost each other’s presence on the platform through coordinated engagement. We believe these types of actors engaged with the representatives’ accounts– the impact of this coordinated behaviour, in combination with our implementation of search auto-suggestions, caused the representatives’ accounts to not show up in auto-suggestions. In addition to fixing search yesterday, we’re continuing to improve our system so it can better detect these situations and correct for them.”
So what do you think of shadowbanning? Let us know by leaving a comment below.