Setting the record straight Twitter has addressed accusations about “shadow banning” accounts explained its tweets ranking models in search results.
“People are asking us if we shadow ban,” Twitter wrote stating, “We do not shadow ban.”
Those who are not familiar with the term “shadow ban” — It’s an act of “deliberately making someone’s content undiscoverable to everyone except the person who posted it, unbeknownst to the original poster,” Twitter defines it. “We do not shadow ban. You are always able to see the tweets from accounts you follow&hellip, And we certainly don’t shadow ban based on political viewpoints or ideology.”
Shadow banning is a method of dealing with problematic users which have been made popular by Reddit.
“We do rank tweets and search results.” Twitter’s ranking models take into consideration many signals to best organize tweets for timely relevance. The company lists its top ranking signals:
“If a search result has 30,000 tweets”, the following ranking signals are taken into account;
- Tweets from people you’re interested in should be ranked highly
- Tweets that are popular are likely to be interesting and should be higher ranked
- Tweets from bad-faith actors who intend to manipulate or divide the conversation should be ranked lower
The last point as Twitter explains is the basis of the signals used to determine bad-faith actors such as;
- Specific account properties indicating authenticity e.g. whether you have a confirmed email address, how recently your account was created, whether you uploaded a profile image, etc
- Actions for e.g. who you follow, who you retweet, etc taken on the network
- How other accounts interact with e.g. who mutes you, who follows you, who retweets you, who blocks you, etc.
This topic happened due to an issue that prevented from auto-suggesting accounts even when people searched for their specific account names. The issue only impacted search auto-suggestions. And, everything else, like tweets and surrounding conversations about those accounts were appearing in search results.
Twitter says, the issue has since been resolved.
Also, recently Twitter begin locking out users who created their accounts when they were underage, regardless of how old they are now. It only triggered when these users recently updated their profile with their current age were getting locked out “if they were under 13 when the account was first created.”
The company confirmed this locked out stating, “Put simply, Twitter is vanquishing the accounts of surely many valuable users worldwide because they chose to provide the company with data which shows they happened to be under 13 when they created their accounts years in the past.”
The company also recently worked on to make the follower counts, a visible feature, and we want everyone to have confidence that the numbers are more meaningful and accurate with the removal of “locked accounts.” As a result, followers count on many profiles may go down.
“Most people will see a change of four followers or fewer; others with larger follower counts will experience a more significant drop. ”
However, removing locked accounts from followers doesn’t impact MAU or DAU.
Twitter notes, it locks an account when a sudden change is detected in account behaviour. And, since it has many such accounts locked with no ability to log in. “Once an account is locked, it cannot Tweet, like or Retweet and it is not served ads. ”
In most cases, Twitter tries to reach out the account owners to validate and reset passwords to keep their accounts alive.
Since, it has many such locked accounts over the year, they will be removed from follower counts across profiles globally, the company said.
Also, making chatting on live video safe for both broadcasters and viewers, Twitter is empowering its community to report and vote on chats they consider to be abusive, and group moderation determines if someone can continue chatting.
Henceforthe, the Periscope Community Guidelines will be aggressively enforced to live video on both Twitter and Periscope.
Also, Twitter now reviewing and suspending accounts that involve in repeatedly sending chats that violate these guidelines.
Inauthentic accounts, spam, and malicious automation disrupt everyone’s experience on Twitter, says the company
it recently began developing machine learning (ML) powered tools to clean up spam and automated activity, and “close the loopholes they’d exploited,” wrote Twitter. “We’re also now automating some processes where we see suspicious account activity, like exceptionally high-volume tweeting with the same hashtag, or using the same @handle without a reply from the account you’re mentioning,” the company said.
The system seems to have a positive impact as it identified and challenged more than 9.9 million “potentially spammy or automated accounts” weekly in May this year alone, according to Harvey and Roth. Adding further, the company says it has removed 214 per cent more accounts for violating spam policies on a year-on-year basis.
At the same time, it’s now seeing a drop of 10 per cent in spam reports from search — “an average number of spam reports dropped from 25,000 per day in March, to 17,000 a day in May.”
Further, the company says, it’s also monitoring Twitter APIs more strictly to curb spam and abuse originating from it. During Q1 this year, it suspended more than 142k apps for violating rules as they tweeted over 130 million spam tweets. This momentum kept as it removed an average of 49k apps each month in the following months.
The social media platform recently came under scrutiny last week for the arbitrary application of its rules, after it suspended many accounts for retweeting a Splinter story that published White House adviser Stephen Miller’s (since changed) phone number. Splinter wrote a story in response pointing out that Twitter has left other accounts that have posted hateful tweets alone. While the recent announcement from Twitter doesn’t address doxxing or the accounts that tweeted about Stephen Miller directly, the timing seems to reassure that measures are being taken to some degree to clean up the platform.
Furthermore, Twitter listed out more steps it’s taking to address these issues and include:
Twitter said, it will now ask to confirm new accounts either via email addresses or phone numbers as part of a battle against manipulation, particularly by automated bots.
Adding a way to check that a real person is behind new accounts was described by Twitter as being among measures to fight abuse, trolls, and hateful content. To this end, it has began auditing of existing accounts for signs of automated sign-up. “Our goal is to ensure every account created on Twitter has passed some simple, automatic security checks designed to prevent automated signups.”
As a result of this audit, already more than 50,000 spammy sign-ups per day is prevented. And, some people may see their follower counts drop; “when we challenge an account, follows originating from that account are hidden until the account owner passes that challenge,” Twitter wrote.
It also has now automated some processes to check suspicious account activity, like exceptionally high-volume Tweeting with the same hashtag, or using the same @username without a reply from the account you’re mentioning. “These tests vary in intensity, and at a simple level may involve the account owner completing a simple reCAPTCHA process or a password reset request,” said Twitter.
Twitter said that it was stepping up its long-running battle against online trolls, trying to find offenders by looking at “behavioral signals”. The new approach looks at behavioral patterns of users in addition to the content of the tweets, allowing Twitter to find and mute online bullies and trolls.
Even if the offending tweets are not a violation of Twitter policy, they may be hidden from users if they are deemed to “distort” a conversation, Twitter said. Twitter already uses artificial intelligence and machine learning in this effort but the latest initiative aims to do more by focusing on the actions of certain users in addition to the content.
Another common form of spammy and automated behavior is “following accounts in coordinated, bulk ways.”
Often accounts engaged in these activities are successfully caught by our automated detection tools (and removed from our active user metrics) shortly after the behavior begins. But we haven’t done enough in the past to make the impact of our detections and actions clear.
To combat these activities in more effective way, it has began updating account metrics in near-real time — for example, “the number of followers an account has, or the number of likes or Retweets a Tweet receives, will be correctly updated when we take action on accounts,” the company stated. So, when an account is put into a read-only state for behaving suspiciously, it’s also removed from follower figures and engagement counts until it passes a challenge, like confirming a phone number. Also a warning on read-only accounts prevents new accounts from following them.
As a result of these improvements, some people may notice their own account metrics change more regularly.
The company also highlighted its efforts to bring more transparency around advertising on Twitter. To provide transparency for all ads running on Twitter, with a specific emphasis on political advertising the company first released a new “Political Campaigning Ads Policy for US federal elections and candidates” last year. And, now it has announced a new “Ads Transparency Center,” that allows anyone to view ads served on Twitter across the globe, along with even more transparency around US federal election campaigning ads.
To view ads in ATC, simply search for a specific handle and the creative for all ad campaigns within the last seven days originated from that handle will show up.
“If an ad is reported and taken down from Twitter, it will be tombstoned in the Ads Transparency Center within approximately 24 hours. If the account was suspended, Tweets will not be shown in the ATC. The same applies to deleted users and Tweets.”
Here is a screenshot of new ATC showing all ads campaigns running from a handle:
Going forward, you will now see additional details, including billing information, ad spend, and impression data per Tweet for all US political advertisers under the new Political Campaigning Policy. Additionally, demographic targeting data for the ads being served will also be shown.
In addition, users will now be able identify political campaign ads, know who paid for them, and whether it was authorized by a candidate as those who is advertising US federal political campaign content on Twitter now require to show a visual badge and disclaimer information on promoted content from certified accounts.
The Ads Transparency Center will also include all advertisers on Twitter globally, and can be accessed without needing to login on Twitter.
Alongside, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook, the company also formally announced the launch of “The Data Transfer Project (DTP).”
“Data Transfer Project is an open source initiative aiming to empower any company to create tools that enable people to freely move their information across the web – without barriers. ”