Republicans ask Musk how many candidates were suppressed by Twitter trends now
Elon Musk, 51, has vowed that 'everything we find will be released' as Twitter continues to release the files surrounding censorship on the social media platform he now owns
Republicans are demanding hearings on Twitter and more information on whether GOP candidates were blacklisted before elections after the second release of files showed conservative accounts were suspended or suppressed - despite not violating any policies.
The calls for more accountability come as Elon Musk responded 'yes' when a user asked him if any political candidates were 'subject to shadowbanning while they were running for office or seeking re-election?'
Republican Senator Roger Wicker has called for the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation to hold a hearing into censorship from Big Tech and GOP Rep. Andrew Clyde has called it 'election interference'.
The release of the second tranche of Twitter files on Thursday night showed the social media giants 'kept a secret blacklist of topics and accounts' to prevent them from trending. Conservatives were deliberately downplayed in a scheme critics called 'Soviet-style bulls***'.
Conservative commentators, including Dan Bongino and Charlie Kirk, were deliberately put on a 'search blacklist' in Bongino's case or tabbed 'do not amplify,' in the case of Kirk.
But there are now calls to release more files that could unearth similar methods used on Republicans seeking office.
Musk, who bought Twitter in October for $44 billion, vowed to end the practice of 'shadow banning' - secretly downgrading a person's tweets or trending themes, to minimize their reach.
'Twitter is working on a software update that will show your true account status, so you know clearly if you've been shadow banned, the reason why and how to appeal,' he said.
The calls for more accountability were sparked by Elon Musk responding 'yes' when a user asked him if any political candidates were 'subject to shadowbanning while they were running for office or seeking re-election?'
Musk, 51, singled out Yoel Roth, the global head of trust and safety, who wrote in internal messages that he wanted more creative ways of censoring and muffling specific accounts and content.
'Truth is out: Twitter did blacklist/suppress accounts their leftist employees disagreed with & manipulated trends against conservatives,' Republican Rep. Steve Scalise tweeted on Thursday night.
Yet another thing the media called Republicans “conspiracy theorists” for saying has turned out to be true. They can’t get away with this.
Republican National Committee chairman Ronna McDaniel wrote on Twitter on Thursday night: 'After I was shadow banned in 2018 (the DNC Chair was not), Twitter put out a statement emphatically saying: “We do not shadow ban.” This confirms that was a LIE.'
Musk defended Twitter's founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey, however.
'Controversial decisions were often made without getting Jack's approval and he was unaware of systemic bias. The inmates were running the asylum,' he said on Thursday night.
'Jack has a pure heart imo.'
The 'Chief Twit', as he calls himself, was responding to revelations from journalist Bari Weiss that Twitter kept a 'secret blacklist' of topics and accounts to prevent them from trending.
The accounts of conservative commentators were deliberately made less prominent in what one called 'Soviet-style bulls***', while another said he was treated 'with more censorship than Hamas.'
Weiss revealed how Twitter had specialist teams tasked with dealing with 200 cases a day.
Those who questioned the prevailing COVID orthodoxy of lockdowns and mask mandates, such as Stanford's Dr Jay Bhattacharya, who argued that lockdowns harmed children, were also placed on a 'search blacklist'.
In October 2020, journalist Dave Rubin asked then-CEO Jack Dorsey: 'Do you shadowban based on political beliefs? Simple yes or no will do.'
Dorsey replied: 'No.'
Yoel Roth was the global head of trust and safety at Twitter. Musk on Thursday highlighted a 2017 tweet in which Roth referred to the Trump White House as being full of 'actual Nazis'
Vijaya Gadde, Twitter's head of legal, policy, and trust, also denied that Twitter operated such blacklists.
'We do not shadow ban,' she said in 2018, according to Weiss - speaking alongside Kayvon Beykpour, Twitter's head of product.
They added: 'And we certainly don't shadow ban based on political viewpoints or ideology.'
Weiss made the revelations on Thursday in the second tranche of what has been termed The Twitter Files.
She reported that Twitter used what was termed 'visibility filtering' to downplay accounts they objected to, and had teams of people working to reduce the traction gained by individuals or their tweets.
One senior Twitter insider called it 'a very powerful tool'.
The teams working to minimize certain accounts or topics were backed up by a top-level 'Site Integrity Policy, Policy Escalation Support' team - where the CEO and top legal advisors would decide sensitive cases of censorship. Jack Dorsey and his successor as CEO, Parag Agrawal, were on the team.
Musk was gleeful about the revelations regarding the company he now owns - retweeting Weiss' thread, with a popcorn emoji.
'As @bariweiss clearly describes, the rules were enforced against the right, but not against the left,' he said.
He added: 'Truth brings reconciliation.'
Within Twitter, the practice was termed 'visibility filtering', Weiss reported.
'Think about visibility filtering as being a way for us to suppress what people see to different levels. It's a very powerful tool,' one senior Twitter employee told her.
Twitter would block searches of individual users, make a specific tweet less easy to find, block posts from the 'trending' page, and remove them from hashtag searches.
Another source, a Twitter engineer, told Weiss: 'We control visibility quite a bit. And we control the amplification of your content quite a bit. And normal people do not know how much we do.'
Weiss said that the matter was dealt with by Twitter's Strategic Response Team - Global Escalation Team, known as SRT-GET - a group that handled 200