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In ‘Twitter Files’ Part 2, Shocking Secret Blacklist. Musk Finds Solution

Released by journalist Bari Weiss on Friday morning, part two of the Twitter Files revealed “Twitter’s secret blacklists”. Weiss, who is the founder and editor of The Free Press, shared the investigation in a Twitter thread where she alleged Twitter employees had built blacklists, actively limited the visibility of certain accounts and “even trending topics” without informing users.

Sharing the investigation thread, Elon Musk in a separate tweet said that Twitter was working on a software update that would show users their “true account status”, allowing them to find out if they had been “shadowbanned”, the reason why and also offer a way to appeal the status.

“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,” Weiss said on Friday morning.

In her thread, the journalist cited the example of Indian-origin Stanford University Professor Dr Jay Bhattacharya who had challenged Covid-19 lockdowns in the USA. Sharing a screenshot of his account, Weiss said, Twitter put Bhattacharya on a “Trends Blacklist” which prevented his tweets from trending.

Bhattacharya had opposed US Covid restrictions and said that school closures and lockdowns would be damaging and harmful to children. Reacting to the thread, Bhattacharya on Twitter said he was still trying to process his emotions after learning that he had been blacklisted.

“The thought that will keep me up tonight: censorship of scientific discussion permitted policies like school closures & a generation of children were hurt,” he said.

Other than Bhattacharya, Weiss cited popular conservative figures were similarly censored, such as right-wing talk show host Dan Bongino, who was slapped with a “Search Blacklist”, and Charlie Kirk, whose account was set to “Do Not Amplify.”

Twitter had earlier denied such allegations. In 2018, Twitter’s Vijaya Gadde (then Head of Legal Policy and Trust) and Kayvon Beykpour (Head of Product) said, “We do not shadow ban,” Weiss claimed.

However, she said, what was in practice shadow banning was called “Visibility Filtering” by Twitter employees and executives. “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 us, Weiss said.

VF was used to block searches of individual users; to limit the scope of a particular tweet’s discoverability; to block select users’ posts from ever appearing on the “trending” page; and from inclusion in hashtag searches, she said.

“Normal people do not know how much we do,” one Twitter engineer told Weiss, referring to how often the feature was used.

She also named top Twitter executives, including ex-CEOs Parag Agarwal and Jack Dorsey, in the thread as being involved in the operations.

Weiss claimed they constituted a ‘secret group’ that was beyond the reach of moderators and the standard ticketing process to deal with policy violations. This secret group included Head of Legal, Policy, and Trust (Vijaya Gadde), the Global Head of Trust & Safety (Yoel Roth), subsequent CEOs Jack Dorsey and Parag Agrawal, and others, she said.

“This is where the biggest, most politically sensitive decisions got made,” she said.

Weiss also revealed screenshots of internal Slack messages where employees discussed using technicalities to restrict the visibility of tweets and subjects.

The first part of the “Twitter Files” was released on Saturday by Musk with independent journalist Matt Taibbi. The thread outlined the thinking behind the decision to censor the news concerning Hunter Biden’s laptop. Titled “The Twitter Files, Part One: How and Why Twitter Blocked the Hunter Biden Laptop Story”, the investigation claimed that Twitter took “extraordinary steps” to suppress the story on Biden’s secret emails from Hunter Biden’s laptop published by New York Post in October 2020.

Musk, sharing the thread, sought to confirm the political bias he had accused the platform of having before he took over. One of the main reasons he had cited for acquiring Twitter was to further his goal of ‘free speech.’

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