I’ve been using the shadowbanned account (@roughcoat13) for about seven months, and never got so much as a 12 hour warning before, but a few days ago I was shadowbanned out of the blue. I don’t violate the terms of service on Twitter, I avoid mixing it up with the butthurt blue check brigade, and I don’t use any of the Magical Naughty Words that are said to earn suspensions on the spot (e.g. faggot and retard). So, what happened?
I seriously doubt it was some kind of automatic filter. I’ve been doing the same thing for all seven months. I mostly reply to other people, I RT a few tweets a day, and occasionally post something of my own. I’m more interested in engaging in discussion with interesting people than playing online journalist or pundit. There’s nothing bot-like about my behavior.
Since I was shadowbanned within minutes of JimFear138—it happened in the middle of a discussion with him, even—I believe our little group of writing wrongthinkers was targeted on purpose. By whom, I can’t say. Possibly I was just collateral damage because Jim definitely seems to be on the radar. He’s on at least his fourth account in the last month. Or possibly I’m now deemed worth shadowbanning because in the last few weeks I actually started to get traction building a small following.
What surprised me is just how frustrating it is to be shadowbanned. It’s immediately obvious that something is wrong when it happens, because discussion becomes impossible. Followers (all or some, I’m not certain) can see directly-made tweets, but they can’t see your replies, and won’t receive notifications. I made several tweets stating that I was shadowbanned and promptly got people saying “I can see you!”, but my replies to them were unseen. Engagement halted completely. It was quite annoying not being able to explain in an actual discussion what I was experiencing.
Leaving the direct tweets visible is not accidental. It occurred to me today why Twitter shadowbans instead of just banning people: it’s a wedge tactic, designed to dishearten and split up networks. Making direct tweets visible while hiding the banned user’s replies—and even the notifications that the user liked other people’s replies—is calculated to effect maximum frustration. It allows conversations to start, but go nowhere in such a way that makes the participants believe the other party is not engaging or possibly even reading the replies. The ban, if impermanent, lasts long enough to cause normally minor but permanent damage on two fronts: some followers will feel snubbed and stop bothering to comment, and some banned users will feel frustrated enough to shift their efforts elsewhere. If the shadowban lasts long enough or is permanent, affected users who desire engagement will simply quit.
Another effect of shadowbanning is accounts are rendered undiscoverable. If you search for tweets from a shadowbanned account you don’t follow, you’ll find zero results. To non-followers, it’s as if the shadowbanned account doesn’t exist. Given the impermanent nature of shadowbans—they seem to last about a week now, jacked up from 3 days, which was an increase from 24 hours a few years ago—I believe hiding the account from searches is either a vestigial feature or incidental to the way the bans are implemented in the code.
And all of this can be done with plausible deniability. Oh, it’s just a filter! It’s an error! What a bunch of bullshit. Silicon Valley and all its cancerous children can not burn to the ground fast enough.
Anyway, I’d love to leave Twitter for greener pastures, but there’s little point if all of the interesting discussion is going to stay on Twitter. I don’t give a fuck about becoming a social media star, but I do want to be able to talk to interesting people, and that means I have to stay on Twitter.
I don’t think we need a Twitter replacement. I think we need a higher level social media platform that can roll Twitter, Gab, etc into one feed and control panel. Preferably, such a thing would be open source and user-controlled. I’ll have to think about how that could work, if at all, but it’s obvious that people stay on Twitter for the same reason I do: that’s where the interesting goings-on are. And unless we can make those goings-on accessible elsewhere, nobody is leaving, even if it does mean putting up with making new accounts every few months and getting shadowbanned occasionally by douchebag SJWs.