Tech guru slams shadow Twitter ban as ‘one step from George Orwell’s opinion police’

The second installment of Elon Musk’s so-called “Twitter Files” has shed light on the company’s practice of secretly “blacklisting” certain tweets and users in a practice that one expert believes is “a step closer” to George Orwell’s Thought Police from the famous novel “1984.”

“Now, when people say, ‘Hey, I got banned for this, or I got taken down for that, or this got taken down and I can’t prove it,’ now we know they’re not lying,” Datagrade founder and CEO Joe Toscano said. for Fox News Digital.

Journalist Bari Weiss tweeted a thread last week revealing that “Twitter employees create blacklists, prevent unfavorable tweets from trending, and actively limit the visibility of entire accounts or even trending topics—all in secret, without notifying users,” and exposed that the common term ” “shadow ban” was referred to by Twitter executives and employees as “Visibility Filtering” or “VF”.

Toscano, a former Google consultant and Internet data guru who was featured in the popular Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma,” believes the term “shadow ban” has become mainstream and is no longer something that can be dismissed as a wacky conspiracy theory.


The second installment of Elon Musk's so-called "Twitter files" shed light on the company's practice of being secretive "blacklisting" certain tweets.

The second installment of Elon Musk’s so-called “Twitter Files” shed light on the company’s practice of secretly “blacklisting” certain tweets.
(Getty Images)

“A shadow ban is the act of banning an account or taking things down, without necessarily any strict definition of why it happened,” Toscano said. “That’s something we’ve seen through the Twitter files, that events have been happening on both sides of the aisle, pulling content across Twitter that is deemed illegitimate or not what Twitter wanted on its platform, as opposed to necessarily exactly what the rules dictated. “

Toscano, who wrote the 2018 book “Automating Humanity,” said Musk’s revelation could result in significant problems for former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and other big tech executives who have long insisted their platforms are not overshadowed.

“It’s obvious now, at this point in history, that every platform is doing this in one form or another. What we’ve seen through the files that have been exposed is that this is a large-scale operation that has been going on for quite a long time across Twitter and that it has affected a lot of people,” Toscano said.

“People were complaining about it and they had no way to explain it, and that’s the most dangerous part of what’s going on,” Toscano continued. “People have no way to fight it…they just disappear. The thought gets disrupted, the thought gets erased, and we’re not allowed to fight it because we don’t know how or why it happened. And these people can’t make a fuss about it because they’re not on the platform now. It’s one step away from George Orwell’s Thought Police.”


Datagrade founder and CEO Joe Toscano appeared in the popular documentary "A social dilemma."

Datagrade founder and CEO Joe Toscano appeared in the popular documentary “The Social Dilemma.”

Ultimately, Toscano believes that Musk’s Twitter files should raise awareness of an issue that needs to be discussed more broadly.

“We’re seeing it on Twitter, we’re literally looking at the files right now. But you can be sure it’s happening on all the other platforms,” ​​he said. “I think it is time for the government to ask for reports from other platforms to confirm that they are not [shadow banning]and if they are, some measure should be taken to protect the freedom of speech of the people.”

It doesn’t look like the conversation around the issue will end anytime soon, as people will be arguing over the rights of an independently owned business versus the First Amendment for the foreseeable future. One aspect Toscano believes everyone should agree on is that government officials and candidates for public office should not dictate who can speak openly on social media platforms. This was put under the microscope during the first batch of Twitter files when it was revealed that a Twitter executive once said they had “processed” a request from Joe Biden’s team for the 2020 campaign.

“You have government officials asking for certain things to be removed, and the platform obliges them,” he said. “It’s very problematic.”

Musk confirmed Friday that political candidates in the United States and abroad have been subject to “shadow bans” by Twitter while running for office or seeking re-election.


Last week, Musk also said that upcoming changes to Twitter’s platform will identify whether someone has been “shadow banned” and what they can do to correct that status.

“Twitter is working on a software update that will show your true account status, so you clearly know if you’ve been shadowbanned, the reason why, and how to appeal,” he tweeted.

Fox News’ Joseph A. Wulfsohn and Brandon Gillespie contributed to this report.

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