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Journalists claim that Twitter has “secret blacklists” to limit users

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Twitter created “secret” blacklists to limit the visibility of “unsolicited tweets” and some right-wing accounts, alleged freelance journalist Barry Weiss, citing an investigation based on internal company documents.

Weiss, a former New York Times opinion writer who now runs The Free Press, said Friday that the social media platform’s previous administration limited access to some accounts with what it called a “trending blacklist” and a “search blacklist” as well as a “don’t inflate” label.

Twitter, which billionaire Elon Musk bought in October, has publicly admitted to restricting access to certain accounts – making them visible to followers while limiting their visibility in conversations and search results – although it has been criticized for not informing the users involved. or to be transparent about its decisions.

In a Twitter thread, Weiss said the blacklisted figures include Jay Bhattacharya, a Stanford professor who has opposed COVID-19 lockdowns, Charlie Kirk, a conservative activist, and “Libs of TikTok,” an account that reposts content posted by liberals. on another site. And make fun of him. and LGBTQ.

Vice, which cited a number of anonymous Twitter employees to support its claims, included screenshots showing the interface Twitter uses to blacklist certain accounts, including flags indicating their restricted status.

“We control the vision a little bit.” Weiss quoted an anonymous engineer on Twitter as saying, “And normal people don’t know everything we do. »

The most politically sensitive decisions, Weiss said, were made by a team known as Site Safety Policy and Policy Escalation Support, which included Vijaya Gaddy, then-head of legal, policy, trust and security, and Will Roth, who was global head of trust and security.

Al Jazeera has reached out to Jad and Roth on Twitter and Linkedin for comment.

Kayvon Beykpour, Twitter’s former chief product officer, dismissed Weiss’ characterization of the platform’s policies, saying the company has never denied rating accounts, but has dismissed claims of “mock bans” — or making certain posts undetectable to anyone but the person who posted them.

“You characterize any de-amplification as a shadow ban, which is either a lazy interpretation or willfully misleading,” Bikpour said on Twitter.

Weiss’ release of the material comes after Twitter’s new owner, Musk, shared internal company documents with Weiss and fellow freelance journalist Matt Taibbi.

Musk, a self-proclaimed autocrat of free speech who has accused Twitter’s former management of siding with liberal views, viewed the release of the files as an attempt to increase transparency about the platform’s impact on political discourse.

Critics accused Musk of waging a campaign of harassment against former Twitter employees, undermining the safety and security of the platform, and fomenting a wave of bigotry and hate on the online platform.

On Friday, Musk wrote on Twitter that the platform was working on an update to “display the real status of your account, so it’s clear if you’ve been banned, why, and how to appeal.”

Weiss’ claims on Friday were met with a polarized reaction, with conservatives seizing his reporting as evidence of Twitter’s liberal bias and many on the left accusing him of amplifying the non-story and PR of Musk, the world’s richest man.

Some Twitter users also pointed out that Musk said last month that hateful and negative tweets would be exposed under his command, describing the platform’s new policy as “freedom of speech, not liberty.”

Last Friday, Tibi, a former Rolling Stone journalist who now writes for Substack, posted internal communications on Twitter from October 2020 detailing how executives made the decision to restrict the circulation of a New York Post article. Biden, son of US President Joe Biden.

The communications showed senior Twitter officials discussing how to handle the article, which was ultimately banned from sharing under the platform’s policy against pirated content.

Twitter’s decision to censor the article, which sparked heated debate about the role of social media in democracy, came after former US intelligence officials said the laptop story bore hallmarks of Russian disinformation — though no evidence of Russian involvement was presented.

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