Twitter says its so-called 'shadow banning' problem affected Democrats too

Twitter says its so-called 'shadow banning' problem affected Democrats too

donald trump

Associated Press/Evan Vucci

President Trump said on Thursday that Twitter was targeting Republicans with "shadow bans."

  • On Thursday President Donald Trump tweeted that Twitter was "shadow banning" prominent Republicans, adding fuel to media reports of right-wing censorship. 
  • Twitter released a blog post saying that it was not shadow banning anyone, but there was an auto-suggest issue, which is now fixed.
  • It said the issue affected hundreds of thousands of accounts, including those of Democratic politicians.

Twitter says the bug that many people describing as "shadow banning" didn't just affect Republican accounts - it affected Democrats too.

The company published a blog post denying accusations from Vice News and, subsequently, Donald Trump that it was intentionally hiding Republican accounts from showing up in its drop-down autocomplete suggestions.

Normally, typing in a person's name on Twitter's search box brings up account suggestions but, according to Vice, this wasn't happening for prominent US conservatives. Vice and others characterised this as shadow banning, and you can read a full explanation here.

Twitter's post is titled "Setting the record straight on shadow banning", and the firm emphatically stated: "We do not shadow ban."

The company did acknowledge an "auto-suggestion issue" which meant some accounts weren't being suggested when people searchd for them.

 "To be clear, this only impacted our search auto-suggestions. The accounts, their tweets and surrounding conversation about those accounts were showing up in search results," the company wrote.

Twitter says it's now fixed the bug and, importantly, said it didn't just affect Republicans.

"Hundreds of thousands of accounts were impacted by this issue," the company wrote. This impact was not limited to a certain political affiliation or geography."

It specifically said that "some Democratic politicians" were affected by it, but declined to give any more specific details when contacted by Business Insider. Twitter also said that the vast majority of affected accounts, "had nothing to do with politics at all."

Explaining why some Republican accounts were impacted, Twitter said it was down to the way other accounts were interacting with them.

"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."

Twitter didn't explain exactly what this means, but one reading is that its efforts to clear bots, trolls, and manipulative actors from its platform specifically affected these accounts.