Friend of ours noticed late last week that his tweets were no longer showing up in Twitter searches. So I searched for his name, complete with Twitter handle, and saw that his tweets from the last two weeks weren’t showing up in searches, except those in exchanges with me, probably because we follow each other.
I conducted the same searches for others in our circle and found the censoring applied to the more prominent members, but not to all. One gentleman with over nine thousand followers (whom I’ll not name) had all his tweets undocumented; I mean, none of his tweets (over a period of years) come up in a search.
Now this could have been a hiccup in the system; perhaps Twitter’s search engine was lagging a few weeks behind. But the distinct correlation between the distance a person’s tweets departed the Overton Window and the delay in turning up said tweets in searches was suspicious.
Our friend meanwhile was actively tweeting about his possible shadow banning, and letting Twitter know he knew about it. Several others did the same.
Next day, all the searches were restored.
Shadowing banning? On social media, it’s when all appears normal to a user, but where that user’s content is in some way hidden from all the other users. In this case, it appears Twitter let users talk to each other but removed the rest of the community from searching the content of these users.
This isn’t the first time Twitter did something like this. A few weeks ago Twitter, in the weakest form of ban it has in its armamentarium, petulantly removed the verification badge from Breitbart’s Milo Yiannopoulos, who uses the handle @Nero. This move blew up in Twitter’s face and resulted in many new followers for Yiannopoulos and in worldwide negative publicity for Twitter. Twitter also removed, partially, the ability to easily search for the incident.
Twitter never explained and it never put Yiannopoulos’s badge back. Twitter has also outright banned, as in kicked off its system, many others. It doesn’t take a statistician to tell you the commonalities of most users cast into the wilderness.
Word is that Twitter will make the banning official “to tackle ‘trolling’ and ‘abuse’“. Which is strange for a system where everybody has to designate who they want to see, and where anybody can block anybody.
Well, now, what do you think of that?
It is, of course, Twitter’s perfect right to ban anybody they want, willy-nilly, or formally. It’s their playground and we pay nothing for it. So I’m not complaining, but I am noticing.
The first thing I notice is that Twitter wants to increase its followers, which they, and Wall Street, consider necessary to boost the stock price, which has fallen by half since the return of CEO Jack Dorsey. The executive staff has also fallen off, with a bevvy of top people bolting not too long after Dorsey’s return.
Still, the relevant question is: will Twitter gain followers from muting people on the right? The idea is to let people follow non-progressives, but to keep sensitive, triggerable eyes from accidentally discovering their opinions. That works, but the maneuver if applied widely tends to drive content towards the average, to the banal, to the same thing you can get anywhere. Why go to Twitter when it’s just an endless retweet of NPR stories?
Twitter regards right-wing thought as harmful to itself. Let that be so, and let them make it known to the world that “extremists” are no longer to be found on its system. Will those progressives and lefties who have been holding back in fear now throng to the site?
Consider too that as word gets out about these bans that people will be reluctant to try Twitter. And folks like me, who provide (so Twitter stats tell me) tens of thousands of impressions a day, might wrap it up and head off into the sunset.
Problem is, Twitter is too specialized, its content too transient. Twitter is like a cocktail party where the conversation never stops, and where you can pop in and take part, but where it’s difficult to discover what exactly was said before you go there. It’s only for the truly Internet-savvy. Casual users don’t get much out it. You also have to like to argue and pay attention, which isn’t most folks. So I think Twitter is already at its true maximum in terms of active users. Of course, any number of people can sign up, but if they don’t engage consistently, Twitter won’t realize any new substantial advertising dollars from whatever users it can coax out of the dark now that I and folks like me have been censored.
In other words, it’s time to short the stock.
In September, German Chancellor Angela Merkel met Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook at a UN development summit in New York. As they sat down, Chancellor Merkel’s microphone, still on, recorded Merkel asking Zuckerberg what could be done to stop anti-immigration postings being written on Facebook. She asked if it was something he was working on, and he assured her it was.
Update La la la.