How Twitter Algorithms Paved the Way for Election Interference

Political Editor with files from sputniknews:

Arabnews24.ca:Thursday 1 December 2022 01:44 PM: https://sputniknews.com/20221201/how-twitter-algorithms-paved-the-way-for-election-interference-1104946353.html

How Twitter Algorithms Paved the Way for Election Interference

How Twitter Algorithms Paved the Way for Election Interference

Twitter owner Elon Musk accused the platform's former leadership of interfering in elections through content moderation and failed public trust on November 30... 01.12.2022, Sputnik International

2022-12-01T18:39+0000

2022-12-01T18:39+0000

2022-12-01T18:41+0000

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The Tesla CEO's assertion about Twitter's alleged election interference came in response to comments made by Twitter's former head of trust and safety, Yoel Roth, who claimed that the social media giant was not safer under Elon Musk. Roth delivered his comments on November 29 at a Knight Foundation conference, going so far as accusing Musk of running the company like a dictator.Musk's answer wasn't long in coming: "The obvious reality, as long-time users know, is that Twitter has failed in trust and safety for a very long time and has interfered in elections."Even though Musk did not specify which elections he thought were affected by the social media platform, it was Roth who is considered responsible for suppressing the New York Post's "laptop from hell" story. The October 2020 bombshell involved both Hunter Biden, the son of then-Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, and Joe himself. Roth was also behind the decision to ban former President Donald Trump from the platform after the controversial January 6 storming of the Capitol building, according to the US media. The former Twitter exec resigned along with the other employees who did not share Musk's free-speech vision following the takeover.Deleting 'Russian Bots' Prior to 2018 MidtermsThe Musk-Roth row has once again shed light on Twitter and other Silicon Valley giants' apparent meddling in US politics and suppression of free speech in clear violation of the First Amendment.It was 2018, the year of midterm elections, when Republicans raised the alarm over Twitter's deleting follower accounts and silencing of conservative voices. In the beginning of July 2018, the US mainstream press announced that Twitter would fake accounts to increase the authenticity of the platform. The move was justified by the alleged activity of "Russian trolls". As a result, many prominent figures, most notably in the conservative camp, lost substantial numbers of followers. Then President Donald Trump lambasted Twitter for "totally discriminating" against Republican Party and conservative users, but Twitter and its CEO Jack Dorsey claimed that the reduction was aimed at bots.Shadow Banning of GOP Figures Before MidtermsOn July 25, 2018, a US conservative media outlet drew attention to the fact that Twitter algorithms were preventing the accounts of prominent Republicans, including RNC Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel, from appearing in search results. The list of "shadow-banned" conservatives included GOP Representatives Mark Meadows, Jim Jordan, and Matt Gaetz, as well as Donald Trump Jr.’s spokesman Andrew Surabian.Previously, Twitter representatives explained that the shadow-banning algorithms were analyzing "account behavior" in order to reduce the visibility of accounts believed to spread bigoted content. The major goal of the tool was to boost the visibility of accounts "contributing to the healthy conversation" in searches.However, according to the conservative media outlet, the mechanism was also instrumentalized against Republicans while their Democratic peers weren't affected by it. Quite the contrary, Democratic accounts were routinely "auto-populated" in Twitter's drop-down search box.On July 26, 2018, Trump stepped in, accusing Twitter of political bias. However, Twitter responded on the same day that it was just a "bug": "We are aware that some accounts are not automatically populating in our search box, and [we're] shipping a change to address this," a Twitter spokesperson said. "The profiles, tweets and discussions about these accounts do appear when you search for them. To be clear, our behavioral ranking doesn't make judgments based on political views or the substance of tweets."In November 2018, the Dems won the popular vote by more than 9.7 million votes – the largest midterm margin for any party – and took control of the House while Republicans retained their Senate majority.2020 Elections: Twitter Tagging Trump's TweetsStill, the row between the GOP and the platform over silencing conservative voices continued. It gained its apogee prior to the 2020 presidential election.In May 2020, Twitter started editorializing Trump's tweets. In particular, the social media giant tagged a fact-check warning to the president's tweet concerning potential fraud in mail-in voting. The tag, reading "Get the facts about mail-in ballots", took a user to a Twitter page that claims that the US president's statements that mail-in ballots would lead to "rigged elections" are "false." Trump immediately lambasted Twitter for "interfering in the 2020 presidential election."Nonetheless, Twitter continued to editorialize the then-president's posts, in particular, adding warning labels to Trump's tweets concerning the issues related to the COVID pandemic.Hunter Biden 'Laptop from Hell'In October 2020, Twitter did its best to suppress the Hunter Biden story, which cast a shadow on his father, the Democratic presidential hopeful. A series of exposés stemming from Hunter's abandoned laptop, later branded the "laptop from hell," shed light on his murky deals with foreign moneybags and alleged trading of his father's political influence for cold, hard cash.While Facebook* simply limited the circulation of its story on the platform, Twitter went further, completely banning the sharing of the newspaper's Biden story. Moreover, Twitter placed a freeze on the account of the New York Post that broke the story. Later US conservative pollsters found out that a substantial part of Americans believe that if the Hunter Biden saga had not been suppressed, Joe Biden would not have won the election.'Big Lie' PretextThe 2020 presidential election was mired in controversy and led to the January 6 Capitol breach with those storming the building believing that the US Congress was about to certify fraudulent votes. Twitter purges immediately followed. The account of Donald Trump – then sitting president of the US – was banned. Numerous accounts of Trump's MAGA followers and his close associates were permanently deleted.Simultaneously, many conservatives reported huge cuts in the number of followers which steadily continued for days. Twitter continued its "tagging" policy targeting those who questioned the fairness of the 2020 vote. The platform also later deleted accounts of Republican state legislatures involved in audits of the 2020 election results, largely in line with the Democratic Party's narrative that everyone who doubted that the vote was fair is spreading the "Big Lie."Twitter & Erosion of TrustAfter Elon Musk took the reins of Twitter in October 2022, he promised to reinstate free speech on the platform. On November 19, 2022, the account of former President Donald Trump was restored by Musk.The new owner of Twitter signalled he was "fine" with Trump not tweeting, even though his account has been revived. "The important thing is that Twitter corrected a grave mistake in banning his account, despite no violation of the law or terms of service. Deplatforming a sitting President undermined public trust in Twitter for half of America," Musk tweeted.US conservatives don't believe in Big Tech's impartiality and have repeatedly lambasted Silicon Valley giants for being in bed with the Democratic Party.* Facebook is designated as an extremist organization in Russia.

https://sputniknews.com/20221102/disinformation-crusaders-how-big-tech-became-us-blobs-executioner-of-free-speech-1102998030.html

https://sputniknews.com/20201015/digital-civil-war-twitter--facebook-ban-anti-biden-bombshells-greenlight-anti-trump-hoaxes-1080782183.html

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twitter election interference, twitter algorithms, big tech, political bias, donald trump, 2018 midterms, 2020 presidential election

twitter election interference, twitter algorithms, big tech, political bias, donald trump, 2018 midterms, 2020 presidential election

18:39 GMT 01.12.2022 (Updated: 18:41 GMT 01.12.2022)

Twitter owner Elon Musk accused the platform's former leadership of interfering in elections through content moderation and failed public trust on November 30. He promised that Twitter 2.0 will be far more effective, transparent and even-handed.

The Tesla CEO's assertion about Twitter's alleged election interference came in response to comments made by Twitter's former head of trust and safety, Yoel Roth, who claimed that the social media giant was not safer under Elon Musk.

Roth delivered his comments on November 29 at a Knight Foundation conference, going so far as accusing Musk of running the company like a dictator.

Musk's answer wasn't long in coming: "The obvious reality, as long-time users know, is that Twitter has failed in trust and safety for a very long time and has interfered in elections."

Even though Musk did not specify which elections he thought were affected by the social media platform, it was Roth who is considered responsible for suppressing the New York Post's "laptop from hell" story. The October 2020 bombshell involved both Hunter Biden, the son of then-Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, and Joe himself. Roth was also behind the decision to ban former President Donald Trump from the platform after the controversial January 6 storming of the Capitol building, according to the US media. The former Twitter exec resigned along with the other employees who did not share Musk's free-speech vision following the takeover.

Deleting 'Russian Bots' Prior to 2018 Midterms

The Musk-Roth row has once again shed light on Twitter and other Silicon Valley giants' apparent meddling in US politics and suppression of free speech in clear violation of the First Amendment.

It was 2018, the year of midterm elections, when Republicans raised the alarm over Twitter's deleting follower accounts and silencing of conservative voices. In the beginning of July 2018, the US mainstream press announced that Twitter would fake accounts to increase the authenticity of the platform.

The move was justified by the alleged activity of "Russian trolls". As a result, many prominent figures, most notably in the conservative camp, lost substantial numbers of followers. Then President Donald Trump lambasted Twitter for "totally discriminating" against Republican Party and conservative users, but Twitter and its CEO Jack Dorsey claimed that the reduction was aimed at bots.

Shadow Banning of GOP Figures Before Midterms

On July 25, 2018, a US conservative media outlet drew attention to the fact that Twitter algorithms were preventing the accounts of prominent Republicans, including RNC Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel, from appearing in search results. The list of "shadow-banned" conservatives included GOP Representatives Mark Meadows, Jim Jordan, and Matt Gaetz, as well as Donald Trump Jr.’s spokesman Andrew Surabian.

Previously, Twitter representatives explained that the shadow-banning algorithms were analyzing "account behavior" in order to reduce the visibility of accounts believed to spread bigoted content. The major goal of the tool was to boost the visibility of accounts "contributing to the healthy conversation" in searches.

However, according to the conservative media outlet, the mechanism was also instrumentalized against Republicans while their Democratic peers weren't affected by it. Quite the contrary, Democratic accounts were routinely "auto-populated" in Twitter's drop-down search box.

On July 26, 2018, Trump stepped in, accusing Twitter of political bias. However, Twitter responded on the same day that it was just a "bug": "We are aware that some accounts are not automatically populating in our search box, and [we're] shipping a change to address this," a Twitter spokesperson said. "The profiles, tweets and discussions about these accounts do appear when you search for them. To be clear, our behavioral ranking doesn't make judgments based on political views or the substance of tweets."

In November 2018, the Dems won the popular vote by more than 9.7 million votes – the largest midterm margin for any party – and took control of the House while Republicans retained their Senate majority.

2020 Elections: Twitter Tagging Trump's Tweets

Still, the row between the GOP and the platform over silencing conservative voices continued. It gained its apogee prior to the 2020 presidential election.

In May 2020, Twitter started editorializing Trump's tweets. In particular, the social media giant tagged a fact-check warning to the president's tweet concerning potential fraud in mail-in voting. The tag, reading "Get the facts about mail-in ballots", took a user to a Twitter page that claims that the US president's statements that mail-in ballots would lead to "rigged elections" are "false." Trump immediately lambasted Twitter for "interfering in the 2020 presidential election."

"Big Tech is doing everything in their very considerable power to censor in advance of the 2020 Election. If that happens, we no longer have our freedom," the president tweeted at the time.

Nonetheless, Twitter continued to editorialize the then-president's posts, in particular, adding warning labels to Trump's tweets concerning the issues related to the COVID pandemic.

Hunter Biden 'Laptop from Hell'

In October 2020, Twitter did its best to suppress the Hunter Biden story, which cast a shadow on his father, the Democratic presidential hopeful. A series of exposés stemming from Hunter's abandoned laptop, later branded the "laptop from hell," shed light on his murky deals with foreign moneybags and alleged trading of his father's political influence for cold, hard cash.

While Facebook* simply limited the circulation of its story on the platform, Twitter went further, completely banning the sharing of the newspaper's Biden story. Moreover, Twitter placed a freeze on the account of the New York Post that broke the story. Later US conservative pollsters found out that a substantial part of Americans believe that if the Hunter Biden saga had not been suppressed, Joe Biden would not have won the election.

'Big Lie' Pretext

The 2020 presidential election was mired in controversy and led to the January 6 Capitol breach with those storming the building believing that the US Congress was about to certify fraudulent votes.

Twitter purges immediately followed. The account of Donald Trump – then sitting president of the US – was banned. Numerous accounts of Trump's MAGA followers and his close associates were permanently deleted.

Simultaneously, many conservatives reported huge cuts in the number of followers which steadily continued for days. Twitter continued its "tagging" policy targeting those who questioned the fairness of the 2020 vote. The platform also later deleted accounts of Republican state legislatures involved in audits of the 2020 election results, largely in line with the Democratic Party's narrative that everyone who doubted that the vote was fair is spreading the "Big Lie."

Twitter & Erosion of Trust

After Elon Musk took the reins of Twitter in October 2022, he promised to reinstate free speech on the platform. On November 19, 2022, the account of former President Donald Trump was restored by Musk.

The new owner of Twitter signalled he was "fine" with Trump not tweeting, even though his account has been revived. "The important thing is that Twitter corrected a grave mistake in banning his account, despite no violation of the law or terms of service. Deplatforming a sitting President undermined public trust in Twitter for half of America," Musk tweeted.

US conservatives don't believe in Big Tech's impartiality and have repeatedly lambasted Silicon Valley giants for being in bed with the Democratic Party.

Elon Musk pledged to restore that trust: "Twitter 2.0 will be far more effective, transparent and even-handed," promised the new CEO.

* Facebook is designated as an extremist organization in Russia.

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