Twitter unveils new “hate speech” shadow ban policy
Big Tech platform Twitter has announced its new policy on hate speech – hiding tweets falling on that classification behind a warning screen that requires a click-through.
The social media site made the announcement in an April 17 blog post. It wrote that while “Twitter users have the right to express their opinions and ideas without fear of censorship,” the site reiterated its responsibility to keep other users “safe from content violating [Twitter] rules.”
“Starting soon, we will add publicly visible labels to tweets identified as potentially violating our policies letting you know we’ve limited their visibility,” the blog post stated. Aside from these warning labels, the aforementioned tweets will be excluded from search results, trends and recommended posts. Advertising will not appear near these tweets, the blog post added.
The blog entry also indicated examples of these warning labels, such as: “Visibility warning: This tweet may violate Twitter’s rules against hateful conduct.”
Twitter admitted that “visibility filtering” – restricting the reach of certain tweets – is one of its existing enforcement actions that allow the platform to move beyond “the binary ‘leave up versus take down’ approach to content moderation.” It also disclosed that it has “not been historically transparent” when it comes to this action.
The tech giant said authors whose tweets were slapped with the warning label can submit feedback. While Twitter clarified that doing so does not guarantee a response or the removal of the label, it is working on an appeal system for users.
The new labels, Twitter said, will initially only apply to a set of tweets that potentially violate the social media site’s hateful conduct policy. It continued that the labels will be implemented in other applicable policy areas in the coming months.
“This change is designed to result in enforcement actions that are more proportional and transparent for everyone on our platform,” Twitter said.
New policy comes amid Twitter’s row with Substack
According to Russia Today, the new policy is meant to embody Twitter CEO Elon Musk’s “freedom of speech, not freedom of reach” paradigm. Musk espoused the concept after acquiring Twitter last year for $44 billion, with the promise of liberating the platform from censorship. (Related: Elon Musk, echoing ADL talking points, says new Twitter policy is ‘freedom of speech, but not freedom of reach.’)
The announcement of Twitter’s new policy incidentally coincided with its row with rival Substack over the latter’s Substack Notes function. Existing tweets with Substack links were de-boosted and locked to new replies, while new tweets were prohibited from being posted.
A separate report by the Guardian also pointed out that searches for the word “substack” on Twitter were automatically replaced by searches for the word “newsletter.” Users who managed to find a tweet with a link to Substack saw labels warning that the destination site was “unsafe or malicious.”
Independent journalist Matt Taibbi, who was hand-picked by Musk himself to publish the Twitter Files, found himself in the middle of the conflict. Taibbi was forced to part ways with Musk and Twitter over the restrictions on Substack, the platform the journalist was using.
In response, Musk accused Taibbi of being a Substack employee and accused the rival platform of “trying to download a massive portion of the Twitter database to bootstrap their Twitter clone.” Both the journalist himself and Substack CEO Chris Best denied the accusations.
The Twitter CEO also claimed Substack links “were never blocked,” but later backtracked on his remarks and admitted that they were temporarily marked as “unsafe.”
“We’re disappointed that Twitter has chosen to restrict writers’ ability to share their work,” Substack’s three founders lamented in a joint statement. “Their livelihoods should not be tied to platforms where they don’t own their relationship with their audience, and where the rules can change on a whim.”
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Watch Elon Musk discuss how he takes freedom of speech “very seriously” in this interview with Tucker Carlson of Fox News.
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