Twitter built “secret blacklists” and ran a clandestine operation to cut the visibility of targeted tweets, accounts and topics, according to the second tranche of Elon Musk’s hyped “Twitter Files” released on Thursday, framing widely known and widely acknowledged practices as revelations that sound similar to Musk’s own policies that have nevertheless sparked fierce backlash among conservatives.
Former New York Times columnist Bari Weiss released part two of the Twitter Files in a 30-part Twitter thread that claimed the platform had teams of employees building blacklists, preventing targeted tweets from trending and limiting the visibility of entire accounts or topics.
Weiss singled out a number of accounts that Twitter employees had allegedly blacklisted, including Stanford health policy professor Jay Bhattacharya, high-profile conservatives Dan Bongino and Charlie Kirk and Libs of TikTok, a popular, influential and controversial right-wing account.
Weiss did not explain why the blacklisted accounts had been targeted, whether they had broken any rules or who made the final decision to throttle them, though she said the group deciding what users to throttle—the Strategic Response Team – Global Escalation Team, or SRT-GET—often “handled up to 200 ‘cases’ a day,” citing internal documents.
Politically sensitive decisions, Weiss listed Libs of TikTok as an example, would be handed to a different team—Site Integrity Policy, Policy Escalation Support, or SIP-PES—made up of top executives like then-CEOs Jack Dorsey and Parag Agrawal, the head of legal, policy and trust Vijaya Gadde and global head of trust and safety Yoel Roth.
Weiss’ tweets characterized Twitter’s downranking operation as secretive and nefarious acts of censorship. What she described was similar to Musk’s own moderation policies for Twitter, which he described as “freedom of speech, but not freedom of reach.” The tweets were somewhat misleading about Twitter’s past comments and work in the area.