The latest batch of insider company information was released on Thursday evening by journalist Bari Weiss. The former New York Times columnist went into greater detail after the first Twitter Files installment last week failed to confirm the popular theory that the U.S. government played a role in censoring a story about Hunter Biden’s laptop.
“A new [Twitter Files] investigation reveals that teams of Twitter employees build blacklists, prevent disfavored tweets from trending, and actively limit the visibility of entire accounts or even trending topics,” Weiss tweeted. “All in secret, without informing users.”
Weiss posted images of what appear to be screenshots from inside Twitter’s system, which labeled profiles like medical expert Dr. Jay Bhattacharya and political commentator Dan Bongino with tags that allegedly reflect limitations on the account. For example, Bongino was tagged with a “Search Blacklist” tag at some point in the past.
Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk was labeled with several tags, including “Do Not Amplify.”
Weiss framed this as shadowbanning, a practice whereby social platforms limit the visibility of a social media account without informing the account owner of such. Twitter employees called this practice of tagging or limiting accounts “visibility filtering,” according to Weiss.
“Think about visibility filtering as being a way for us to suppress what people see to different levels. It’s a very powerful tool,” one Twitter executive told Weiss. Other employees confirmed that they attempt to control the visibility of content.
Weiss also identified groups within Twitter that handle content moderation decisions.
A “Site Integrity Policy, Policy Escalation Support,” or SIP-PES, group led by multiple key Twitter executives handled decisions related to large controversial accounts like Libs of TikTok.
Twitter had suspended Libs of TikTok at least six times in 2022. While the leaders of SIP-PES did not find any tweets that directly violated the company’s policies, the team justified the ongoing bans due to allegations that the content had inspired the harassment of children’s hospitals.
While Weiss treats limitations on content as a new revelation, Twitter has openly stated on its Help Center that it will limit an account’s reach if it discovers “abuse or manipulation” of its service. Musk has also indicated that he intends to limit the spread of hateful speech rather than outright delete it.
The first set of the Twitter Files specifically reviewed the website’s handling of the bans on a New York Post story about Hunter Biden’s laptop. The files provided to journalist Matt Taibbi showed multiple screenshots of internal conversations between Twitter employees and members of the Biden administration or the Democratic National Committee regarding specific posts. These include naked images of Hunter Biden and other communications.
“This is some Soviet-style bulls***,” Bongino said Thursday on Fox News’s Hannity in response to the Twitter Files release. He said the blacklist label confirms what he long believed about “the mass shadow-banning of conservatives.”
Musk responded to the files’ release by claiming that Twitter would incorporate a software update that would “show your true account status, so you know clearly if you’ve been shadowbanned, the reason why and how to appeal.” It is unclear when this update will be incorporated.
While Musk earlier alleged that there had been communications between the federal government and Twitter regarding the takedown of tweets, Taibbi stated that he found no evidence implying that federal agents had told Twitter to take down the New York Post story. Rather, they had received vague warnings from the FBI about foreign actors.