Uncovering Twitter's mysterious "shadow ban" feature...

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Uncovering Twitter's mysterious "shadow ban" feature...

Post by circuitbored » Wed Mar 16, 2022 2:46 pm

The following is just an opinion, not necessarily fact, but based on the author's extensive experience in web development and in managing multiple social media accounts. Feel free to draw your own conclusions and or argue about the relevance of these issues cited on our very low-key (and possibly now shadowbanned) Twitter account:


After several years of wondering why our tweets were always in limbo, and why no matter what we did, our follower count never grew, Twitter finally blessed us with a vague blurb about a feature conveniently called "autoblock"... Think of it as a modern day form of post segregation on a platform that has also been letting many others get away with public abuse of the same feature for years now based on what I assume is their ability to generate money for the platform in ad revenue.

Twitter is not democratic nor equal as a posting platform... It may have started out that way, but now it's apparently more of a machine created to generate money based on encouraging engagement with designated and pre-determined content... The real-time (independent) content that users generate is often "garnish" on the main dish, and it is used and positioned in a way that it doesn't rise above garnish level in most cases... Occasionally garnish posts may be permitted to rise to the top when it is in support of publicity or profit, and that's why we see so many accounts get publicly shamed and promoted. Another way to transcend the glass ceiling is to simply pay for visibility, which many accounts do, but in turn, those promoted posts have money making agendas of their own.

If they admitted that Twitter is neither fair, nor free, nor democratic clearly before users signed up, they'd probably be a small backyard operation, and a hard sell, but they didn't... Twitter promised the inverse of all those things in order to woo users. Twitter announced boldly that they were a democratic, free, and equal community, and perhaps for a while (early on) they were that. Twitter's ethical reorganization seemed to take place right around the time they went public... The app grew popular and a new revenue-first focus creeped in and took over and killed the fuzzy community aspects they once had like a clearly organized timeline and actual visibility to people that followed your account.

Here's a low-key article posted by twitter on the matter (apparently from back in September 2021 according to the page source)

https://help.twitter.com/en/safety-and- ... /autoblock

Sub Credit: I was reminded about this by this post on Hacker News today: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=30696297

This is really Twitter finally (and still vaguely) detailing their "shadow ban" feature in my opinion. This ban can potentially permanently or intermittently limit an account's ability to be seen and followed by others on the platform, arbitrarily based on the content of their posts without notifying the poster that it occurred in any way. It's a denial of service that can easily be weaponized by others against users as well, and it serves as an excuse for Twitter to suppress any account that does not serve their profit goals.

Don't forget other key negative user experience points...

You can easily be shadowbanned by Twitter for complaining about Twitter on Twitter.

They send you posts and updates from accounts you don't follow and clicking on "I don't want to see this" does not stop the process.

Twitter regularly pushes ghost and delayed activity notices to drive engagement even on shadowbanned accounts.

They also embed posts from accounts you don't follow in individual timelines.

Account settings are not properly displayed in logical ways, they constantly change in location, and trade-offs for making your account private often negatively affect an accounts visibility, functionality, and user experience dramatically.

Muting words and phrases has not worked properly... for years.

The Twitter app can also interact with other apps on your device, and track words you type and even personal conversations you have, and use them to push content and ads to you... Possibly even when you have the setting for "third party data sharing" disabled.

Twitter also builds a rather inaccurate list of keywords associated with your activity on the platform that you cannot control and uses it to filter all of the content you see. These "interest" keywords associated with your account cannot be changed, it is a pool of data gathered from people you follow and what you've typed over the life of running you account, it often locks you into an information bubble that dictates everything you see for the life of each account, and it also ensures that each use has a customized (yet individually/uniquely frustrating) experience that can't properly be explained nor replicated by any other user.

Features like this have actually been in place for quite some time now on Twitter in my own opinion, but somehow they don't apply for certain accounts that are well known for their sensationalism and/or prominence. The key may lie in whether a business or personal account is chosen, but I suspect that things change once you reach a certain level of followers as well... It's always a mystery how followers are earned on social platforms, but I think it's well past a time when we actually believe the process of gaining followers is completely based on the quality of posts citing all of the other manipulation that occurs on platforms like this. Just a casual search on Google for the terms "bot followers", "SMM Panel", or "buy social media accounts with followers" easily highlights how much fakery occurs within the realm of social platforms like Twitter. Trying to organically grow on these platforms is now a descent into madness, and expecting organic and/or free growth on social media may be a one way ticket to insanity as you see others with money sail past you... For me, that's perfectly fine, but only if the platforms admit that payment is what it takes to succeed, rather than telling us our content may not be good enough.

In the past years on Twitter, we've seen non-stop political spam, disinformation, violent posts, pornography, and the all too well known racially charged incident posts on trending topics... This kind of content likely drives engagement upwards on most social platforms, so of course it slips through the gates "conveniently" in order to brutalize triggered users into commenting and staying glued to the platform for updates, and thus driving user-sponsored (paid) post boosting and other paid advertising.

I'm pretty sure that there is a threshold for this "autoblock" feature that is not applied to some accounts based on unknown attributes, like the amount of followers they have, and most likely based on the engagement you'll generate for the platform... This explains why divisive and hostile personalities regularly get away with incendiary (yet figurative of course) "murder" on the platform.

This is why so many people have quit Twitter as a platform and/or abandoned their social accounts... Because they have suffered the extreme frustration in being unknowingly "ratioed" and/or "shadowbanned" for many years. Many Twitter users have felt like they were talking to a brick wall, for reasons unknown to them, and simply gave up on posting to the platform because of a lack of success, while others posted their same (and far more incendiary) posts and got ahead.

Many of these platforms trying to integrate and push NFTs adds even more fuel to a modern snake oil story. Many would say there is little benefit to social platforms in any way to users overall now. Social media does not and probably won't ever provide a useful "discovery" service for it's users unless they can charge a flat fee for equal opportunity and promotion. Money paid to advertise within these platforms could be applied to much more fruitful means, like directly building and promoting a web site that is not subject to visibility limits for your individual subscribers where your posts will be shown without adds and other distractions trying to steal attention away from your specific messaging.

Its almost telling of where social media is going in the modern era, and ultimately what will stifle any potential benefits that any social platform can offer, and it also shows how much these platforms are unfortunately designed to waste your time unless you're unknowingly building revenue for them, or knowingly buying goods.

Perhaps it's a good thing that these platforms have grown so large... The fall will be harder when the giant is bigger. When large companies act irresponsibly, and prey on their user base, it shouldn't be swept under a rug or easily forgiven... It drives suicide, low self esteem, elitism, oppression, and many other negative social outcomes and issues on a global level.

For all the people abused (mysteriously muting and suppressing the visibility of user posts in a uneven and veiled manner IS a form of abuse) in their process of climbing the bean stalk will only make their fall more epic-ly satisfying to all those who have been misled by any corporate or other misrepresentation in order to protect our emotional well being in life. It's our individual responsibility to note and express issues of this kind to present an opportunity for accountability and correction.

What exactly is "Safety Mode"? Is it safe for you? Is it safe for us to be nerfed any time we have an idea we feel is worth posting? Is Twitter now "safer" with it?

In the past few weeks of (personally) seeing unexpected and undesired porn in trending topics, graphic war-related content, really troublesome racist content charading as "political content", and tons of other undesirable and relatively spam-level posts (About things K-Pop, Kardashians, Kanye which I actually had Twitter mutewords "conveniently" "configured" to "autoblock" but somehow it has never properly worked) I don't really think that SAFE MODE has made Twitter any "safer" for me, but it's definitely served as brainwash advertising for the subjects of the related content.

I have little faith in this autoblock "process" behind the feature making Twitter better, safer, more productive, nor highly useful for anyone who is not already famous or relatively wealthy enough to pay for promoted posts. I also wonder if this is implemented on other platforms, as other platforms (like FaceBook, Instagram, SnapChat, TikTok, etc.) haven't yet made any statements on doing this, but overall account engagement for posts seems to have been in decline across most of the platforms I've used for a long time now.

Things were far better when we just had our own (independently run and paid-for) web sites, we just had search engines to contend with for visibility.... That era had it's complications too, but at least our "followers" and "subscribers" always had visibility to what we posted and there was a lot less stolen and cloned content, disinformation, arguments in the comments, and more innovative and less-marginal ideas on most "front pages".

This may be a strong sign of what is next to come for all social media, and also a pre-text for social media sites turning back into non-social platforms as independent creators leave them.

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