BOMBSHELL: Twitter Files Part 2 reveals existence of ‘Secret Blacklists,’ political suppression

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On late Thursday, journalist Matt Taibbi announced the second release of Twitter files with the tweet “Start your engines…”

The files, which reveal the existence of “secret blacklists” maintained by Twitter employees, were then tweeted out by journalist Bari Weiss in a thread titled “The Twitter Files Part Two: Twitter’s secret blacklists.”

Twitter has been under scrutiny in recent years for its handling of certain content and accounts on its platform. Now, the second release of the Twitter Files has confirmed longstanding speculation that the company maintains secret blacklists used by teams of employees to suppress content from accounts they view as unpalatable, with much of the suppression being politically motivated.

The use of these blacklists allows Twitter to limit the visibility of certain accounts or trending topics without informing the affected users. This revelation has sparked further criticism of the company’s practices and the potential for bias in its content moderation.

Elon Musk later confirmed to me that the blacklist even extended to political candidates who were running for office or seeking re-election.

Bari Weiss’ Twitter thread on the second release of the Twitter Files reveals that teams of Twitter employees built and used blacklists to prevent certain content from trending. Users were not notified if their accounts were being suppressed in this way, and had no way of knowing if their content was being limited.

The thread states: “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 continued: “Twitter once had a mission ‘to give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers.’ Along the way, barriers nevertheless were erected.”

Weiss has reported that Twitter suppressed the tweets of noted Stanford professor Dr. Jay Bhattacharya during the pandemic lockdowns. Bhattacharya was an early critic of lockdowns and spoke out against their negative impact on children.

Bari Weiss’ report on the second release of the Twitter Files also revealed that conservative commentators Charlie Kirk and Dan Bongino were on the blacklist, limiting their reach and preventing users from finding their tweets.

“Twitter denied that it does such things,” wrote Weiss. “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.’ They added: ‘And we certainly don’t shadow ban based on political viewpoints or ideology.’”

“What many people call ‘shadow banning,’ Twitter executives and employees call ‘Visibility Filtering’ or ‘VF.’ Multiple high-level sources confirmed its meaning,” Weiss explained. “’VF’ refers to Twitter’s control over user visibility. It used VF 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.”

“All without users’ knowledge,” she added.

“’We control visibility quite a bit. And we control the amplification of your content quite a bit. And normal people do not know how much we do,’ one Twitter engineer told us,” Weiss wrote. “Two additional Twitter employees confirmed.”

She noted that the group that decided on limiting the reach of certain users was known as the “Strategic Response Team – Global Escalation Team” (SRT-GET), which “often handled up to 200 ‘cases’ a day.”

The moderation went another layer deep, “beyond the rank-and-file moderators following the company’s policy on paper,” she added, revealing the existence of the “Site Integrity Policy, Policy Escalation Support” (SIP-PES), which was made up of Twitter executives including former legal head Vijaya Gadde, Trust & Safety chief Yoel Roth, and CEOs Jack Dorsey and Parag Agrawal, “and others.”

“This is where the biggest, most politically sensitive decisions got made,” Weiss explained, noting that Twitter employees she spoke to said that accounts impacted would be those with high follower counts, for whom “there would be no ticket or anything.”

Among those high-profile accounts subject to that special level of scrutiny was the popular Libs of TikTok (LTT), who was put on the “Trends Blacklist” and designated as “Do Not Take Action on User WIthout Consulting With SIP-PES.”

Libs of TikTok was suspended six times in 2022, and eight times in total, which caused the account’s proprietor Chaya Raichik to be locked out from access up to a week each time.

“Twitter repeatedly informed Raichik that she had been suspended for violating Twitter’s policy against ‘hateful conduct.'” Weiss wrote, noting that Libs of TikTok did not actually violate the policy.

“But in an internal SIP-PES memo from October 2022, after her seventh suspension, the committee acknowledged that ‘LTT has not directly engaged in behavior violative of the Hateful Conduct policy,’” she said.

“The committee justified her suspensions internally by claiming her posts encouraged online harassment of ‘hospitals and medical providers’ by insinuating ‘that gender-affirming healthcare is equivalent to child abuse or grooming,’” Weiss wrote.

Weiss further revealed how the suppression of the Libs of TikTok account contrasted to actual violations of the platform’s terms of service, including when Raichik was doxed.

“A Photo of her home with her address was posted in a tweet that has garnered more than 10,000 likes,” wrote Weiss, who said that the post still remains up.

As reported by Rebel News, Washington Post journalist Taylor Lorenz published Raichik’s private home address before it was removed by editors.

“In internal Slack messages, Twitter employees spoke of using technicalities to restrict the visibility of tweets and subjects,” reported Weiss, highlighting a screenshot of Yoel Roth discussing how to use the platform’s spam-enforcement tools to suppress users.

Roth would later ask the company’s Health, Misinformation, Privacy, and Identity research team to come up with justifications to support expanding the site’s visibility filtering tools, which he referred to as “non-removal policy interventions,” including de-amplification and disabling engagements.

“Roth wrote: ‘The hypothesis underlying much of what we’ve implemented is that if exposure to, e.g., misinformation directly causes harm, we should use remediations that reduce exposure, and limiting the spread/virality of content is a good way to do that.’”

“He added: ‘We got Jack on board with implementing this for civic integrity in the near term, but we’re going to need to make a more robust case to get this into our repertoire of policy remediations – especially for other policy domains.’”

Following the release of the second batch of the Twitter Files, Elon Musk confirmed that there was suppression of political candidates.

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