Critics of Bari Weiss’ Thursday installment of the Twitter Files downplayed and dismissed the report as reflecting previous policies in the platform’s terms of service.
Weiss’ Thursday report confirmed previous suspicion that the outlet was shadow-banning users, which is defined as the intentional blocking or prevention of a user from being discoverable on social media by limiting their account visibility without the user’s knowledge. However, Twitter executives referred to the practice as “visibility filtering,” according to Weiss’ report.
Critics of Weiss’ report downplayed her revelation by suggesting the outlet had been transparent about shadow-banning/visibility filtering in the platform’s terms of service.
“I just discovered this secret document (the publicly available terms of service) that says Twitter sometimes limits the distribution or visibility of content,” said Vox cofounder Matthew Yglesias.
I discovered this secret document (the publicly available terms of service) that says Twitter sometimes limits the distribution or visibility of content. pic.twitter.com/xpkXhCQQUM
— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) December 9, 2022
“New narrative: they weren’t shadow-banning political opponents. They were just enforcing the spam policy,” said entrepreneur David Sacks, who quote tweeted one user downplaying Weiss’ report as simply following the platform’s terms of service.
“As [Bari Weiss] clearly describes, the rules were enforced against the right, but not against the left,” Twitter owner Elon Musk followed up.
As @bariweiss clearly describes, the rules were enforced against the right, but not against the left
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 9, 2022
Yglesias responded to Musk by asking to “evaluate” Weiss’ report.
Chief economist at Innovate Economy suggested Musk’s policy of Twitter’s “freedom of speech, but not freedom of reach” mirrored the platform’s previous admission of post “ranking.”
What’s the difference? pic.twitter.com/2wFRKGb12s
— Adam Ozimek (@ModeledBehavior) December 9, 2022
Accounts affected by “visibility filters” were tagged with “trends blacklist,” “search blacklist,” and “do not amplify,” according to Weiss.
Other high profile accounts, including Libs of TikTok, were flagged with a “do not take action on user” banner instructing Twitter executives to consult with Site Integrity Policy, Policy Escalation Support (SIP-PES).
“Bari Weiss confirming what we all knew, Libs of [TikTok] was given special preferential treatment despite her account breaking the rules several times,” Alejandra Caraballo of Harvard Law Cyberlaw Clinic said. “Despite Bari’s claims, LoTT was removed from search on November 19th.”
“Did Elon just give Bari Weiss and Abigail Shrier access to everyone’s DM’s?” Caraballo continued, noting Weiss appeared to have access to users private direct messages.
“This would be a clear violation of the Stored Communications Act by sharing with them. Not to mention, potentially handing the most transphobic ‘journalists’ access to trans people is dangerous.”
Bari Weiss confirming what we all knew, Libs of Tiktok was given special preferential treatment despite her account breaking the rules several times.
Despite Bari's claims, LoTT was removed from search on November 19th. pic.twitter.com/1R35vP73Es
— Alejandra Caraballo (@Esqueer_) December 9, 2022
“Does she not realize that ‘do not take action on user without…’ is proof that LoTT was getting preferential treatment? In that the account couldn’t get suspended for breaking rules (which it constantly does) without special approval,” said writer Parker Malloy, appearing to suggest Libs of TikTok’s “visibility filter” was a privilege not extended to other accounts.
“Not exactly a scandal that accounts that were constantly breaking Twitter’s TOS weren’t being featured in trends and whatnot.”
Does she not realize that "do not take action on user without…" is proof that LoTT was getting preferential treatment? In that the account couldn't get suspended for breaking rules (which it constantly does) without special approval. pic.twitter.com/6DZupXoZT1
— Parker Molloy (@ParkerMolloy) December 9, 2022
NBC News Senior Reporter Ben Collins reacted to Weiss’ report with a yawning emoji.
— Ben Collins (@oneunderscore__) December 9, 2022
Weiss’ Thursday report appeared to contradict previous statements from Twitter and former CEO Jack Dorsey denying allegations of shadow-banning.
“We don’t shadow ban, and we certainly don’t shadow ban based on political viewpoints,” said Dorsey in 2018.