Our 2020 Digital New Year’s Resolutions
December 2019 | by James Desio
What is shadow banning? Well, here’s the definition.
To break that down even more, a shadow ban is the latest way big tech uses tricky algorithms to hide content from YOUR timeline, without you OR the original poster ever noticing.
Along with outright banning, shadow banning is one of the fastest growing threats to your Twitter account in 2019, but the details of how or why it happens are a mystery to most users.
The first sign that an account may be a victim of this stealth censorship is that these accounts fail to appear in the search bar – even if you’ve typed the entire account name. Here’s an example of an account that was recently blocked:
We’ve also seen content for this account blocked in retweets, with “this tweet is unavailable” appearing in lieu of the real content.
But the debate over shadow banning is bigger than just Twitter. There are many reports of accounts facing shadow bans on Facebook, YouTube, and more. Social media giants claim their methods for targeting are meant to reduce the flow of “fake news” and abusive content. Unfortunately, it seems that fake news and abusive content are still rampant on the platforms, while a large number of accounts have faced the mysterious ban, seemingly without reason.
And we’re not just talking bots. In 2018, big name conservatives including Congressmen Matt Gaetz, Jim Jordan, and Mark Meadows, and Republican Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, and conservative commentators Diamond and Silk were all shadow banned on social media.
(As you can see, these names also failed to appear in the search bar.)
But it’s not only conservatives facing a block. Other people affected by “shadow banning” include Democrats, progressives, transgender users, Black Lives Matter activists, feminists, pro-wrestlers, socialists, and even users that participated in prolific anti-ISIS campaigns. As Twitter and its competitors try to clean up discourse on their sites, they rely on artificial, machine-run algorithms to moderate. An unnamed amount of “triggers” exist in these systems that target all types of people and eliminate them – without notice – in the blink of an eye.
While Silicon Valley holds tight to the notion that these blocks are not political, there’s no doubt the issue continues to divide across partisan lines as conservative users feel unfairly targeted by the social media giants.
This is only the beginning of what will surely be a hard-fought battle for fair media coverage leading up to the next election. Shadow banning only underlines the value of organic community building.
With the increasingly mysterious algorithms shadow banning new accounts every day, you need to make sure your followers are more dedicated than the constantly shifting policies of Silicon Valley, and relying on social media alone to stay in touch is not enough in this age.
Having supporters dedicated enough to go to your feed directly when your tweets don’t show up in their timelines is helpful to keeping your message alive beyond the ban. Even better? Make sure you have the emails of all of your followers and let them know you are shadow banned, and show them how to set up alerts for your account.
It’s unclear how shadow banning will evolve in the days to come, or how this censoring will affect the 2020 election cycle. What is clear is that every campaign can’t just rely on Twitter. We must be more vigilant than ever to effectively share our messages with an omni-channel strategy across ALL platforms.
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