Twitter admits ‘unfairly filtering 600,000 accounts,’ but says it’s not politically motivated
Over 600,000 Twitter accounts were not showing up in an auto-search, due to a behaviour algorithm, CEO Jack Dorsey admitted on Wednesday.
But he said the accounts chosen were based on “behavioural signals” and not political ideology.
“Twitter does not use political ideology to make any decisions, whether related to ranking content on our service or how we enforce our rules,” Dorsey said in prepared testimony to Congress.
The testimony came at a U.S. House of Representatives hearing looking into, among other things, how social media is used by foreign influencers and politicians.
WATCH: Twitter CEO says platform’s verification program ‘is in serious need of a reboot’
In May, Twitter outlined a new approach intended to reduce the impact of disruptive users, or trolls, by reading “behavioural signals” that tend to indicate when users are more interested in blowing up conversations than in contributing. For instance, Twitter will take note if users sign up for multiple accounts at the same time, or if they repeatedly tweet at or mention accounts that don’t follow them.
While accounts flagged this way don’t technically violate Twitter policy, the company now wants to protect the “health” of users’ online conversations. The signals determine how a tweet is displayed in users’ timelines.
WATCH: Google, other social media sites ‘trying to silence’ conservatives, Trump says
In his opening remarks, Dorsey said in July Twitter officials noted that certain algorithms were “unfairly filtering” the accounts, which included members of Congress — both Democrat and Republican.
He said the algorithms were corrected within 24 hours.
While Dorsey admitted that some accounts were not being automatically suggested, if a user searched specifically for those accounts, they would still be visible.
WATCH: Twitter CEO shares measures being taken by to safeguard users from foreign influencers
Critics decry the filter as a type of shadow ban — aimed at silencing conservative members.
But Dorsey adamantly denies any political affiliation.
“Our quality filtering and ranking algorithm does not result in Tweets by Democrats or Tweets by Republicans being viewed any differently,” he said in his testimony. “Their performance is the same because the Twitter platform itself does not take sides.”
While a Tweet will apparently always be visible to the account’s followers, Dorsey reiterated on Twitter that, “We do not have a responsibility, nor you a right, to amplify your tweets to audiences that don’t follow you.”
WATCH: Twitter CEO says impartiality is their guiding position and believes in open and free expression
The testimony comes after Republicans, along with President Donald Trump, have accused Twitter of “shadow banning” them — also known as the act of reducing a user’s reach without their knowledge.
A new poll from Axios shows that two-thirds of Republicans believe internet searches are politically skewed towards the left. Democrats were more likely than not to believe that search results were unbiased.
After the hearing, the U.S. Justice Dept. said it was convening U.S. state attorneys general to look into whether social media companies were “stifling the free exchange” of information online.
© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.