Civics: Twitter, fake news, bots and “shadow bans

Andrea Stoppa:

In particular, Musk asked for clarification about whether Twitter engages in “shadow bans” to limit the visibility of some users and their content. In 2018, Twitter stated that it does not use the technique and that any apparent “bans” were the result of technical problems.

But a year later, Twitter updated its terms of service to say that it may obscure the content of some users at its discretion. And in a paper published last year, three European researchers analyzed more than 2.5 million Twitter accounts, looking for cases where the visibility of a user’s posts appeared to have been reduced. They said they found “a good indicator of the presence of groups of shadow-banned users on the service.”

Twitter leadership is aware of such problems, but instead of confronting them, it has vilified Musk. That’s a mistake. Twitter’s long-term survival depends not just on its finances, but on the level of trust it inspires users and advertisers. If the platform is infested with bots, spam and fake accounts, the user experience deteriorates. If users have doubts about how the algorithm suggests topics or if some users believe Twitter silences them because of their ideas, Twitter cannot ignore the call for transparency and accountability.

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