Project Veritas went undercover in 2018 to discover the internal bias of social media platform Twitter and the tactics that the company uses to suppress speech on its platform, many of which use the same internal tools used in this week major hack of some of the most prominent accounts on the entire platform.
Twitter recently revealed that the accounts of 130 people on its platform were targeted in a recent hack that saw multiple high-profile accounts hijacked in order to promote a Bitcoin scam which reportedly generated over $100,000 for hackers.
The accounts hijacked include Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden, Former President Barack Obama, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, and the official accounts of ridesharing service Uber and tech giant Apple.
Twitter has long been one of the most political social media platforms online, initially branding itself as the “free-speech wing of the free-speech party,” and encouraging political debate. Since its founding, many have alleged that the site shows bias against conservative voices on its platform. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey later called the free speech slogan a “joke.”
In 2018, James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas published an investigation of Twitter that confirmed a number of reports published by Breitbart Tech relating to the censorship of conservative voices.
Account suppression methods such as shadowbanning, a way of preventing Twitter user’s content appearing in their follower’s newsfeeds — and thus not spreading normally, Twitter’s use of bots to attack pro-Trump and pro-America accounts, and Twitter’s open bias against conservative users, regularly banning their accounts based on the personal politics of Twitter’s account reviewers all appeared to be confirmed by Project Veritas’ investigation.
Twitter has claimed to be a neutral platform for some time, but Project Veritas’ investigation revealed a long history of bias amongst employees at the Silicon Valley firm. Pranay Singh, a direct messaging engineer at Twitter who spoke on camera in Project Veritas’ report, revealed that conservative accounts are actually targeted en-masse using machine learning. When a Project Veritas journalist asked Singh how Twitter staff can tell if an account is a bot or a normal person, Singh replied:
You use machine learning. You look for Trump, or America, or any of, like, five thousand, like, Keywords to describe a redneck. And then you look and you, like, parse all the messages, all like the pictures, and then you look for, like, stuff that matches, like, that stuff. And like if it, so you, like, you assign a value to each thing, so like Trump would be, like, .5, a picture of a gun would be like 1.5, and, like, if it comes up… the total comes up above, like, a certain value, then it’s a bot
Just go to a random tweet, and just look at the followers. They’ll all be like, guns, God, ‘Merica, like, and with the American flag and, like, the cross… Like, who says that? Who talks like that? It’s for sure a bot.
You just delete them, but, like, the problem is there are hundreds of thousands of them, so you got to, like, write algorithms, that do it for you.
I would say majority of it are for Republicans, because they’re all from Russia and they wanted Trump to win, so yeah.
Project Veritas confirmed Breitbart Tech’s reporting through an undercover conversation with former Twitter software engineer Abhinav Vadrevu who said the following to one of Project Veritas’ undercover reporters:
The idea of a shadow ban is that you ban someone but they don’t know they’ve been banned, because they keep posting but no one sees their content. So they just think that no one is engaging with their content, when in reality, no one is seeing it.
But at the end of the day, no one else interacts… No one else sees what you’re doing. So, all that data is just thrown away. It’s risky though. Because people will figure that shit out and be like… You know, it’s a lot of bad press if, like, people figure out that you’re like shadow banning them. It’s like, unethical in some way. You know? So, I don’t know.
In the past people have been really, really pissed off about that. And even people who haven’t been shadow banned have called it, like, a really terrible thing to do. So, yeah, it’s a risky strategy.
I definitely know Reddit does this, but I don’t know if Twitter does this anymore.
Read more about Project Veritas’ investigation at Breitbart News here.
Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or contact via secure email at the address firstname.lastname@example.org