Elon Musk, the owner of X, has pledged to “soon” address the issue of “shadowbanning” on the social network formerly known as Twitter, which refers to adjustments that ensure a user’s content is no longer shared and hidden from the general public.

Musk has apologized for the delay and provided an explanation for why X is unable to provide consumers access to this information.

Even in the early days of Twitter, shadowbanning was a problem because users were unaware that they had been punished for their tweets in this way. When enforced, users are still able to publish to the site as usual, but they will find that their tweets aren’t receiving as much attention and feedback as they usually do. Trump and other Republicans frequently politicized the subject by claiming that Twitter was obscuring their posts.

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Musk even made an attempt to show the world that shadowbanning was a widespread practice at Twitter after seizing control of the platform, but ultimately all that was revealed was a behind-the-scenes look at the challenging chore of social media moderation.

Nevertheless, Musk has argued that users should be able to find out if they have been shadowbanned. The proprietor of Twitter stated during the Viva Tech conference that the firm was developing a method to inform users if their accounts had been impacted by the Twitter system in any way.

Musk highlighted why the issue was challenging to solve in a fresh tweet this morning, lamenting that there are “so many layers of ‘trust & safety’ software that it often takes the company hours to figure out who, how, and why an account was suspended or shadowbanned.” He added that a complete rewrite was being done to streamline this codebase.

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The response didn’t reveal as much information on the challenges facing X’s most recent initiative as many would have hoped, but a post from Yoel Roth, a former head of trust and safety at Twitter, did.

Roth said there was some authenticity to Musk’s claims, despite the “word salad” he used, in a post on the decentralized Twitter competitor Bluesky.

Roth started off by stating that social media platforms typically disclose when they have banned someone and why. In the beginning, this might even just a spreadsheet or Google Doc for smaller businesses. The business would often move such information into some type of metadata that was directly associated with user accounts over time as the system and network scaled.

“Perhaps the account has a free-text message that reads, ‘Yoel banned this user for posting death threats. Please ask me first before lifting the ban on them,’ Roth added. Twitter, however, still keeps “a lot of enforcement metadata in free-text notes attached to user accounts,” he said. He noted as an aside that everything at Twitter had a cutesy bird name and that’s why this system is called Guano.

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Due to other priorities, Roth claimed that Twitter didn’t prioritize switching from a free-text notes system. This created issues since these notes are “very hard to parse programmatically — which is sort of what Musk is complaining about,” Roth added. “A human can comprehend them and take appropriate action, but if you wanted to provide automated user notice of account status, you need them in some structured format,”

Roth agreed that it would be a good idea to rewrite the technology that controls enforcement attribution. In fact, this project was well underway when Twitter was acquired. The shipment was planned for this year. (Perhaps the project’s delay was caused by Musk’s acquisition of Twitter and the many layoffs that followed?)

“Twitter uses hundreds, if not thousands, of different algorithms and heuristics that work in tandem to detect things like spam. To combat spam, that intricacy is essential. But that makes it challenging to pinpoint precisely what led a certain user to be “shadowbanned” (aww…) at a particular time, Roth said.

He continued, “Anyway, if Twitter are rebuilding a bunch of the infrastructure that handles this, that seems like a good thing and I wish them luck,” in jest, adding that he had jokedly left instructions for how to do it in his Google Drive at the business.

It’s difficult to believe that the business will be able to “soon” install the technology needed to display to consumers their account status, as promised, given the difficulties Roth outlined facing X with regard to the infrastructure here, unless the project had been re-prioritized some time ago.


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