Shadow Banned

Posted 21st February 2019 by Dave Cross
Brad Rodu, a Professor of Medicine and Endowed Chair of Tobacco Harm Reduction Research at the University of Louisville, responded to an erroneous statement on the Twitter platform. The error was made by Quit Tobacco/UCanQuit2, a U.S. Department of Defence program. Everybody liking or Retweeting Rodu’s response has been shadow banned or had their accounts locked. Is there something nefarious going on?

UCanQuit2 is an educational campaign for the U.S. military, giving service people “the opportunity to learn more about tobacco cessation, develop a plan for quitting, and get help around the clock.”

On February 11, its Twitter account posted: “Smokeless tobacco users are 50x more likely to get cheek, gum & mouth cancer vs. nonusers.”

Rodu responded: “Your 50 claim is a complete fabrication by a staffer @theNCI. Here is the explanation: https://tinyurl.com/yxjsnugd . Furthermore, a large federally-funded study documented that men who dip/chew had ZERO excess risk for mouth cancer. ZERO. http://tinyurl.com/hd8nd49

Rodu points out that the Department of Defence “made the same bogus claim two years ago (here).”

Then something very odd happened, everybody liking or retweeting Rodu’s post found their accounts locked or were placed on a shadow ban.

What is a shadow ban? Twitter defines it: “Deliberately making someone’s content undiscoverable to everyone except the person who posted it, unbeknownst to the original poster.” Twitter claim that it doesn’t shadow ban users.

Using an online tool, it was clearly apparent that accounts had been suspended or restricted. Rodu wrote: “After my Tweet was liked by 24 people and retweeted by 13, a strange chain of events occurred. The Twitter accounts of many of the above were suspended. The affected individuals pleaded with @TwitterSupport to make amends.”

POTV created a sample account and liked Rodu’s original tweet. Then we clicked on “Retweet” – the account was immediately locked.

Some have been generous enough to blame what is happening on a glitch, others wonder if something more underhand is going on and criticism of a U.S. military educational campaign is being censored.

Five days on and Twitter Support has failed to respond to the many calls for assistance or explanation, although a couple of accounts have returned to normal. The action has interfered with vape advocates being able to share information – something we can’t see as being an issue for the Department of Defence, the Food and Drug Administration or the Surgeon General.

 

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 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, dog walker