X wants to address shadowbans but it might be hard

Onur Demirkol
Aug 18, 2023

Elon Musk, the owner of X, has made a commitment to address the issue of "shadowbanning" on the platform, a practice where a user's content is restricted from reaching a wider audience without their knowledge. Musk acknowledged the delay in resolving this matter and explained the challenges hindering X from providing users with this data.

Shadowbanning has been a source of concern on social media platforms, including X's predecessor Twitter, where users may not realize their posts are being suppressed. Musk's takeover of Twitter led to attempts to shed light on shadowbanning practices, though the outcome mostly provided insights into the intricacies of content moderation.

Musk has emphasized that users deserve to know if they've been affected by shadowbanning. At a conference, he mentioned efforts to introduce a feature showing users whether the platform's actions have impacted their accounts.

However, addressing this issue has proven complex. Musk recently tweeted about the challenge, revealing that layers of "trust & safety" software make it time-consuming to identify why an account was suspended or shadowbanned. He also mentioned a rewrite of the codebase to simplify the process.

X is working on adding more transparency around shadowbanning

Yoel Roth gare more insight

Former Head of Trust and Safety at Twitter, Yoel Roth, shared additional insights on the matter. He explained that platforms typically maintain notes or metadata when banning users, which can be increasingly difficult to manage as the network grows. Twitter, for instance, still relies on free-text notes for enforcement metadata.

“For things like spam, Twitter has hundreds (if not thousands) of different models and heuristics operating in parallel. That complexity is necessary to keep up with spam. But it makes it hard to explain exactly what caused a specific user to get “shadowbanned” (sigh…) at a specific moment. Anyway, if Twitter are rebuilding a bunch of the infrastructure that handles this, that seems like a good thing, and I wish them luck,” Roth said.

X slows down websites Musk dislikes

Roth agreed that rewriting the code handling enforcement attribution would be a positive step. He noted that Twitter had been working on such improvements before the acquisition. The complexity of spam detection systems adds to the difficulty of explaining shadowbanning occurrences.

Musk's determination to enhance transparency in X's practices is evident despite the complexities involved. While the timeline for implementing these changes remains uncertain, the effort to provide users with more clarity on account status is underway.


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