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Twitter is totally rejecting comments made by an employee in a new Project Veritas video that seem to suggest the tech company discriminates against conservative users and could be providing the Department of Justice with President Donald Trump’s deleted tweets and direct messages.
Is Twitter Helping the DOJ?
Project Veritas, the far-right watchdog organization founded by James O’Keefe and known for posting edited and often doctored undercover videos, recently published an interview with Clay Haynes, a senior network engineer for Twitter.
In the video, Haynes explained the company’s access to users’ accounts — including the president’s — and expressed interest in helping the DOJ with its investigation into potential ties between Trump and Russia.
“We’re more than happy to help the Department of Justice in their little investigation,” Haynes said in the undercover video, referring to special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing probe, noting the California-based business can provide the agency with “every single tweet that [Trump] has posted, even the ones he’s deleted. Any direct messages, any mentions.”
What Is 'Shadow Banning?'
Former Twitter software engineer Abhinav Vadrevu also appears to have told Project Veritas the company is capable of “shadow banning” accounts posting content it deems unfavorable:
“The idea of a shadow ban is that you ban someone but they don’t know they’ve been banned, because they keep posting and no one sees their content. So they just think that no one is engaging with their content, when in reality, no one is seeing it.”
It looks like @Twitter responded again, “Twitter does not shadowban accounts. We do take actions to downrank accounts that are abusive, and mark them accordingly so people can still to click through and see these Tweets if they so choose.” From @FoxNews: https://t.co/uI228CUJGU pic.twitter.com/nFPWJwDPgI
— Project Veritas (@Project_Veritas) January 11, 2018
Essentially, he explained, Twitter is turning users’ profile into dummy accounts that have been totally neutralized.
“They still see everything, it’s all there,” Vadrevu said. “You can like it, favorite it, or you can like retweet, or whatever. But at the end of the day, no one else interacts. No one else sees what you’re doing.”
The former staffer’s biggest concern, though, is the negative press that could follow if word ever spread about Twitter’s alleged “shadow banning.” Employing the “risky strategy” could have troubling ramifications, Vadrevu said.
In early January, one other former Twitter engineer, Conrado Miranda, confirmed to Project Veritas that “shadow banning” is, in fact, “a thing.”
How Is Twitter Responding?
A spokesperson for the social media company told Fox News on Thursday that neither Haynes nor the former employees in the Project Veritas videos speak for Twitter.
The spokesperson said Twitter “only responds to valid legal requests, and does not share any user information with law enforcement without such a request.” The company also rebuked Project Veritas for being politically motivated:
“We deplore the deceptive and underhanded tactics by which this footage was obtained and selectively edited to fit a pre-determined narrative. Twitter is committed to enforcing our rules without bias and empowering every voice on our platform, in accordance with the Twitter Rules.”
Though the comments obtained by O’Keefe certainly appear unsettling, much of it isn’t new information. Twitter’s long-established policies make clear the company has access to nearly everything users’ post on the platform.
The 12-year-old company also distanced itself from the so-called “shadow banning” strategy. A spokesperson said Twitter does not “shadow ban” accounts, though it does “downrank accounts that are abusive and mark them accordingly so people can still to (sic) click through and see these tweets if they so choose.”
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