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posted by martyb on Wednesday April 27 2016, @01:56AM   Printer-friendly
from the is-a-Trump-tweet-called-a-Treet? dept.

You were warned. Now it begins.

Since the implementation of Twitter's new algorithmic timeline back in February of this year, conservatives, libertarians and anti-establishment dissidents alike have been waiting for the social media platform to interfere in the current U.S. election cycle. Now it seems that there is clear evidence of Twitter censoring the current Republican front-runner, Donald Trump.

A tweet sent from Trump's account at 3:04 PM EDT yesterday is not visible from his timeline, even when showing "Tweets and replies." That message included a video wherein Trump declared that "the establishment and special interests are absolutely killing our country."At the time of this writing, the tweet is still publicly accessible via a direct link and thus has not been deleted either by Twitter or by someone operating on the Trump account.

This link has a copy of the timeline taken before this article was published which clearly shows the tweet not appearing where it should be — between a tweet sent at 12:10 PM EDT and one sent at 3:27 PM EDT; it is possible that the tweet may be reintroduced to the timeline in order to hide the manipulation.

Today it's one Trump tweet, tomorrow it will be you.

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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by c0lo on Wednesday April 27 2016, @02:55AM

    by c0lo (156) on Wednesday April 27 2016, @02:55AM (#337731) Journal

    Today it's one Trump tweet, tomorrow it will be you.

    A search for "Twitter shadowban" revealed Adventures in Twitter Censorship [] (lightweight 4 pages PDF, dated Oct 18 2015).

    On the plus side, the Trump's twitter incident added to the linked may show this story is not about Trump.
    On the negative side, I have a hunch that is actually not Twitter that drives the censorship but some letter agencies - in which case this story might as well read "Spooks now actively interfere with the democratic process"

    The linked story describes a similar incident [] happening to Paul Dietrich (and investigative journo involved in researching the drone papers []).

    Some excepts below, but do read the 4 pages I linked to get your own opinion.

    [description of a similar behaviour initially noted by Paul Dietrich and Jacob Applebaum]

    With this memory, I decided to check with tor browser. And there it was all along, in Appelbaum's twitter feed. I thought this was worthy of a post, which prompted another retweet from Appelbaum, and several helpful responses, among them were posts from two other users (one of whom has worked with the Snowden Archive and been published in Der Spiegel) confirming that they too were experiencing the same issue. The tweet had disappeared from view from US, in Appelbaum's feed. From these posts, and my own work, it appears the issue was not limited to only one ISP (it affected both CenturyLink and Verizon), to one browser (Firefox, Chrome, IE and Opera were tried), one operating system (it affected both Windows and Android), or one login (at least 3 different users affected, I was also unaffected whilst logged in, but still using tor). It was also not a case of tor vs non-tor (US tor exits affected, as were my regular home IP addresses). Apparent location of the user's IP address seemed to be the main factor. Germans could see it the post, Americans couldn't.


    It became apparent that Twitter itself was the cause. Moreover, that it was likely not a bug, but a deliberate feature of the system, one that has been documented.

    The social media company also says, "we have begun to test a product feature to help us identify suspected abusive Tweets and limit their reach. This feature takes into account a wide range of signals and context that frequently correlates with abuse including the age of the account itself, and the imilarity of a Tweet to other content that our safety team has in the past independently determined to be abusive. It will not affect your ability to see content that you've
    explicitly sought out, such as Tweets from accounts you follow, but instead is designed to help us limit the potential harm of abusive content. This feature does not take into account whether the content posted or followed by a user is controversial or unpopular".

    If this tool is in use, it has several interesting capabilities. To suppress posts from individual feeds, for certain viewers, depending on where they are, and for a specific time. Most views and retweets usually occur within 24 hours. If a post can be hidden for a time, its reach will be severely limited. And if the original post is a retweet, the person controlling the feed is unlikely to notice (especially if it shows up in his own view). If notifications that someone has retweeted are suppressed, the poster himself is less likely to notice. On the odd chance someone notices, and goes back the next day to check, the post will be right where it was supposed to be, and that person says “oh well, guess it was nothing,” and moves on. But worse than that, even if a person is dead sure, the effects soon become non-reproducible, which reduces the chances that the person can prove it. Censorship that doesn't look like censorship. It deliberately reduces the spread of information that might otherwise go viral. Vicious. “You can say what you like but no one will hear you. And also, you'll think no one cared, so you'll give up trying.” Subtle, deniable, and quite ruthless.

    Who controls this software? Does Twitter itself set all the rules? Do governments set policies for Twitter to administer? Or can they drive it directly? Is it all automatic, censorship by algorithm? Some mutant hybrid? (The tool's existence is not in question, as Twitter has acknowledged it, the only question is whether it was being used here, and if so, what it implies for the capabilities and policies governing the tool.)

    Starting Score:    1  point
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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 27 2016, @10:39AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 27 2016, @10:39AM (#337872)

    and on this website: New Twitter Features Re-ignite Censorship Concerns []

  • (Score: 2) by forkazoo on Wednesday April 27 2016, @09:07PM

    by forkazoo (2561) on Wednesday April 27 2016, @09:07PM (#338144)

    I have a hunch that is actually not Twitter that drives the censorship but some letter agencies

    Certainly possible, but hardly the only possibility. Anybody dealing with large distributed systems has had problems where data propagation is incorrect or delayed. For example, at a previous job if I gave my account some permissions in Active Directory, I could immediately do stuff on a server in London, but if I tried the same thing on a server in LA it would take a few hours for the change to propagate to the local AD server. It was hardly that the NSA was preventing my account from doing what I wanted, and all a consequence of the fact that perfect replication of distributed data in perfect sync is pretty much impossible, especially with a rate of change as high as all the tweets in the world, and a userbase that is globally very widely distributed.