Twitter again says it doesn't 'shadow ban'

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Leah Millis / Reuters
Leah Millis / Reuters

Over the last day or so, an article alleged that Twitter was showing bias against conservative political figures by failing to auto-populate their names in the search box. Once the president's account tweeted about it this morning, it officially became a thing, and the company repeatedly tried to explain how multiple factors affected a number of accounts showing up in search, not just those on one particular political side.

We've gone in-depth on the issue already, but if you need more information from the source, there's a new blog post from Twitter explaining more about what goes into its search feature and why a certain account might not appear right away. Once again, product lead Kayvon Beykpour and Legal, Policy and Trust & Safety Lead Vijaya Gadde put their names out there proclaiming that Twitter does not "shadow ban," and said that hundreds of thousands of accounts from around the world were affected by the search auto-suggest issue. We'll see if that's enough to put things to rest.

How many people were impacted by the search auto-suggest issue?

  • Hundreds of thousands of accounts were impacted by this issue. This impact was not limited to a certain political affiliation or geography. And, to be clear, these accounts were only impacted within search auto-suggestions-- they still appeared in search results. This issue has now been resolved.

It looks like this only affected Republican politicians. Were Democratic politicians also impacted?

  • Yes, some Democratic politicians were not properly showing up within search auto-suggestions as result of this issue. As mentioned above, the issue was broad-ranging and not limited to political accounts or specific geographies. And most accounts affected had nothing to do with politics at all.

OK, so there was a search auto-suggest issue. But what caused these Republican representatives to be impacted?

  • For the most part, we believe the issue had more to do with how other people were interacting with these representatives' accounts than the accounts themselves (see bullet #3 above). There are communities that try to boost each other's presence on the platform through coordinated engagement. We believe these types of actors engaged with the representatives' accounts-- the impact of this coordinated behavior, in combination with our implementation of search auto-suggestions, caused the representatives' accounts to not show up in auto-suggestions. In addition to fixing search yesterday, we're continuing to improve our system so it can better detect these situations and correct for them.
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