Shadow-banning on twitter: How does it work?
   19-Feb-2019
There is much hue and cry these days about the biased social media platforms especially Twitter, in our country. Recently very tough stand was taken by Parliamentary Committee to handle this situation when they summoned top bosses of Twitter to appear before its IT committee. Let us understand what the basis of such complaints is…
 
 
People protesting outside Twitter office in New Delhi claiming that Twitter is biased against nationalist Indian users 
 
Of late, many users have serious concerns about their accounts being blocked or suspended by Twitter without any warning or notice. If a user’s content (tweets) violates their terms and conditions, it will be removed or their accounts suspended for which users will be given a chance to explain their views. At present, hundreds and thousands of users accounts have been either suspended or deleted without giving any reason or warning to redress their cases.
This kind of behaviour of the micro-blogging giant seems blatantly biased, opaque and arbitrary, contrary to what they seem to project as a transparent platform to express one view.
 
Users with a large number of followers have complained of shadow-banning or ghosting of tweets of late. Their complaint is that when they send out tweets or retweets through their profiles, it just does not reach their followers. There is a strong feeling among Right-Wing followers that Twitter is ghosting their tweets.
 
Preferential treatments of certain accounts is another problem that has been voiced by users against Twitter. A clipping of video shared by a user without a Twitter verified symbol (blue tick) resulted in the account being suspended overnight, and the same tweet by Rahul Gandhi spread like wildfire. If this is not ‘bias then what is this? Could someone in Twitter explain what the heck this is?
 
The crux of the problem is what the basis for any account to be suspended by Twitter is? We saw some accounts getting their verified sign in a few days, and a lot with a huge fan following and clean slate still struggling to get ‘blue tick’ shouldn’t there be a transparent criterion for this?
 
A lot has to be sorted out before Twitter could call itself a fair and transparent platform. Right now, its behavior is horrible. They need to ensure a proper redressal mechanism is available for its users to get a chance to be heard, not just an online system. Twitter needs to ensure they don’t hide behind DMCA Act every time they have a problem its users, whose view they may not agree with. India is one of their biggest markets which they cannot afford to ignore. Otherwise, its users will leave the platform in droves.
 
The way Facebook handled its Oxford Analytica scam is still fresh in our minds. And hundreds and thousands of users are logging out of Facebook for good, and the #deletefacebook hashtag has become so prevalent that there is even a backlash against Facebook and its privacy policy, while the facebook is still grappling with negative impact in the aftermath of Oxford Analytica. The same thing can happen to Twitter too, if it is going to earn the displeasure of thousands of its right wing users in India, a market it cannot afford to ignore, if it were to survive here. With India’s ‘software superpower’ status, Indian engineers can easily pull off an alternative to Twitter platform, much like Chinese micro-blogging platform, weibo. We should probably turn to viable twiter options like Gab, if Twitter India refuses to mend its ways.
(The write is Cyber Expert and ahs been advising corporations globally on technology and innovations)