Twitter (TWTR) CEO Jack Dorsey took to the main stage during the House Commerce and Energy Committee’s hearing on the social media network’s content monitoring practices and algorithm use on Wednesday. As expected, it was largely a farce.
The impetus for the meeting was to question Dorsey about whether Twitter has a bias against conservative voices, a theory that’s been gaining steam among Republican politicians as of late. But in truth, it’s all smoke and mirrors.
To hear Republicans tell it, Twitter was blocking conservative accounts en masse, via so-called “shadow banning.” Shadow banning is a way to shut down disruptive users on forum websites by hiding what they post. Since a person can always create a new account when their original is deleted and continue bothering users, the moderator keeps the offending user’s account active, but prevents anyone from being able to see what they wrote. In some cases, the disruptive user might never know they’ve been shadow banned.
In Twitter’s case, conservatives argue that the social network was keeping conservative politicians’ accounts hidden. But that’s not the case at all. And doing so would only hurt Twitter as a company.
A shadow ban sideshow
Here’s what happened with this supposed shadow ban. When you search for a Twitter user, typing their name into the Twitter search bar will provide an auto-completed search, which makes it easier to find individuals.
In this incident, more than 600,000 Twitter users’ names were not showing up in the autocomplete search. For example, if you typed in the name of Representative Mark Meadows (R-NC), his name wouldn’t appear in the search bar.
If you performed the full search, though, you could still find Meadows, as well as the rest of the impacted accounts. Similarly, if you followed such users, you were still able to see their tweets just as you normally would.
Following a Vice News report on the issue, however, conservative lawmakers latched on to the…
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