Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is scheduled to appear before the House Energy & Commerce committee on September 5th, after several GOP lawmakers demanded action in response to reports of conservatives being “shadow banned” by the San Francisco-based social media giant.
CONFIRMED: Twitter CEO @jack Dorsey will testify September 5 before E&C on the company’s algorithms and content monitoring.
— Energy and Commerce (@HouseCommerce) August 24, 2018
“Twitter is an incredibly powerful platform that can change the national conversation in the time it takes a tweet to go viral,” wrote committee Chair Greg Walden (R-OR) in a Friday statement.
“When decisions about data and content are made using opaque processes, the American people are right to raise concerns. This committee intends to ask tough questions about how Twitter monitors and polices content, and we look forward to Mr. Dorsey being forthright and transparent regarding the complex processes behind the company’s algorithms and content judgement calls,” the statement continues.
Earlier this month, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy sent a letter to Walden, requesting that he be allowed to publicly grill Jack Dorsey over recent allegations that the platform limits the reach of some conservative accounts.
“Any solution to this problem must start with accountability from companies like Twitter, whose platforms have enormous potential to impact the national conversation — and unfortunately, enormous potential for abuse,” McCarthy said in the letter to House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden.
“In particular, I would like to request a hearing with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey so that the American people can learn more about the filtering and censorship practices on his platform.” –Kevin McCarthy
McCarthy, who has worked on tech issues for years, has been investigating reports of Silicon Valley tech giants injecting their admittedly liberal bias into the way they enforce speech on their platforms. McCarthy and other Republican leaders met with Facebook staffers in June over their concerns, and as recently as last month McCarthy was running ads on Facebook inviting supporters to join him “and President Trump in defending our conservative voice against social media censoring,” according to the platform’s public database of political ads.
This action follows Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) against Twitter after he discovered that his account was being ‘shadowbanned’ – the practice of excluding or reducing the visibility of one’s tweets from normal circulation on the platform.
Is it only a coincidence that these allegations would arise the week following my heated exchange with Twitter Executives before the Judiciary Committee??
— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) July 25, 2018
In late July, Twitter issued a strange explanation to “set the record straight,” in response to growing outrage over the practice of “shadow banning” conservatives, as confirmed in an article from the liberal publication VICE and promptly tweeted about by President Trump – where Twitter explicitly stated that they do not engage in the practice – except then they describe how they do exactly that.
“People are asking us if we shadow ban. We do not. But let’s start with, “what is shadow banning?”
The best definition we found is this: deliberately making someone’s content undiscoverable to everyone except the person who posted it, unbeknownst to the original poster.” –Twitter
Then, Twitter reiterates they don’t shadow ban – with the caveat in parentheses that you may need to go directly to the timeline of some users in order to see their tweets.
Meanwhile, former “Direct Messaging Engineer” Pranay Singh (who is now a “Site Reliability Engineer”) revealed one of the ways they do it:
“Yeah you look for Trump, or America, and you have like five thousand keywords to describe a redneck. Then you look and parse all the messages, all the pictures, and then you look for stuff that matches that stuff.” -Pranay Singh
When asked if the majority of the algorithms are targeted against conservative or liberal users of Twitter, Singh said, “I would say majority of it are for Republicans.”
So if Twitter is full of smug, angry, #resisting millennials – who have shown zero compunction about punishing conservatives by applying vastly disproportionate standards to liberals – how, exactly, is Jack going to ensure this doesn’t happen? Some of these people genuinely believe they’re in a war right now.
In the full Project Veritas video from the Twitter sting, Twitter Content Review Agent Mo Nora explains that Twitter doesn’t have an official written policy that targets conservative speech, but rather they were following “unwritten rules from the top“:
“A lot of unwritten rules, and being that we’re in San Francisco, we’re in California, very liberal, a very blue state. You had to be… I mean as a company you can’t really say it because it would make you look bad, but behind closed doors are lots of rules.”
“There was, I would say… Twitter was probably about 90% Anti-Trump, maybe 99% Anti-Trump.”
The full 15-minute video of O’Keefe’s Twitter sting can be seen below:
“We do not shadow ban. You are always able to see the tweets from accounts you follow (although you may have to do more work to find them, like go directly to their profile). And we certainly don’t shadow ban based on political viewpoints or ideology.” –Twitter
In other words, Twitter says they don’t shadow ban – it’s just that tweets from people you follow may never appear unless you click directly into their timeline.
This is remarkable from $TWTR
– defines shadowbanning
– says they don’t shadowban
– then says that for some accounts you have to go visit them to see their tweets@jack you might need to take the nosering out and clean house pic.twitter.com/3sTlkDWM4G
— Barbarian Capital (@BarbarianCap) July 27, 2018
In January, an undercover video from Project Veritas captured several current and former Twitter employees bragging about siliencing conservatives on the platform.
“[T]hey just think that no one is engaging with their content, when in reality, no one is seeing it” – admitted former software engineer Abhinav Vadrevu.
Although Twitter presents itself as politically neutral, it’s culture behind closed doors is one of blatant censorship and systematic bias. Watch closely @jack, because you know we are. FULL VIDEO: https://t.co/Tqrd4FBr2v pic.twitter.com/DBOIcEvX8W
— James O’Keefe (@JamesOKeefeIII) January 11, 2018