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Twitter CEO blames botched algorithm for shadow banning prominent Republicans

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was grilled by the House Energy and Commerce Committee yesterday, in an attempt by Congress to further investigate election interference on social media. In particular, Twitter has repeatedly been criticised for showing liberal bias, something which Dorsey adamantly denies.

Over the years, Twitter has battled against accusations that it is biased against conservatives, with many prominent members of the Republican party claiming to suffer from a ‘shadow ban’ from the platform. To clarify, shadow banning is the term given to the practice of limiting a user’s post reach, as well as quietly bumping them down within search results to minimalise their presence. Republican members of Congress used their alone time with Dorsey to address the matter head on.

In an attempt to remain transparent about Twitter’s algorithm, Dorsey outright denies that he or his employees have implemented such a practice. “When people follow you, you’ve earned that audience. And we have a responsibility to make sure they can see your tweets,” he explains. “We do not have a responsibility, nor you a right, to amplify your tweets to audiences that don’t follow you.”

Democratic members of the House committee criticised the inquiry as a waste of time, with Rep. Frank Pallone highlighting Donald Trump’s overwhelming presence on the platform. “It’s the height of hypocrisy to criticize Twitter for its supposed liberal bias, when President Trump uses the platform every day for his juvenile tweets.”

In the case of Ronna McDaniel, Jim Jordan and Matt Gaetz, who were all affected by shadow banning according to Vice, Dorsey explained that this was the result of a botched algorithm detecting bad behaviour from their followers causing the lack of search auto-population, not the political views. Changes have since been made to help ensure that the same thing doesn’t happen again.

Beyond the tit for tat between the two parties, Dorsey acknowledged that Twitter has a long way to go to fix its platform. Alongside remaining impartial and enforcing its rules, he revealed that he thinks the terms it does display are confusing and need clarification.

Another point of interest is Twitter’s verification process, as it displays a blue tick symbol next to those who have confirmed who they are. This has been inaccessible to the public since February with Dorsey stating that the program “is not where we'd like it to be.” Eventually, Twitter aimed to make this accessible to everyone, alongside those in the public eye that previously met the requirements, such as celebrities and journalists, however the revised system has yet to receive a release window.

KitGuru Says: It’s good to see more than just Facebook get tough love from Congress, as Dorsey was also joined by Google in a previous grilling. It’s the responsibility of all social media heads to stomp out election interference and bias.

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