Dave Rubin was invited to Twitter headquarters to get the inside scoop on why many users are still experiencing engagement issues and reported “shadowbans.”
The journalist shed some very interesting insights into the ongoing problems in a Twitter thread, which will be shared in a more easily read format below.
Spent last two days at Twitter in SF talking to engineers, product managers and yes, @elonmusk. Learned a ton about what’s going on. Before I share, want to note that after couple hour meeting I asked Elon what I could share and he said, “anything that’s true.”
“A Fractal Rube Goldberg Machine.”
That’s what @elonmusk called Twitter. As they fix the code more problems arise. A delicate balance he likened to a Jenga tower. One wrong move the whole thing collapses. They’re working nonstop, and both times I met him were after midnight.
I met with several engineers who were doing a deep dive on why my account and so many others seem to be absolutely crushed after that two or three week return to normalcy when Elon first took over. They still have more questions than answers, but they did learn a bunch of stuff.
Accounts aren’t just hit with labels that are obvious to insiders. They now found more “secret” labels which are causing shadowbans. My account was hit with all three; “Recent abuse strike,” “Recent misinformation strike”, “Recent suspension strike.”
It’s unclear so far what these strikes actually do, but for sure they suppress views and recommendations, they are trying to figure out to what extent. I also had many innocuous tweets labeled NSFW or NSFA (not safe for ads) which affect visibility in the timeline. Also, there’s an entire KeyWord database so that machine learning makes sure not to promote violence, porn etc., but it’s a mess of overreaching words. Literally the word “gay” was on the KeyWord list which would make you not advertiser friendly and harm the tweet in the algo.
Backing up for a sec, they found the “recent suspension strike” on my account most interesting because it was fro July 2022, when I was suspended for calling out @jordanbpeterson’s unjust suspension. So though suspension was reversed the action on the account remained.
Elon was bringing people in and out constantly and seems to be aware of pretty much every issue. He thinks maybe the entire code has to be torn down and start from scratch. At the end last night he said that the whole situation is “a flaming dumpster rolling down the street.”
So I assure you they are aware of the problems and Elon and engineers are there all night trying to untie this crazy knot. Some changes they’ve made, like the “For You” tab, have confused people and hurt engagement for accounts who have gotten the NSFA label without knowing. They also don’t know for sure why things got so much better once Elon made the acquisition and why it seems far worse now. Some is probably related to excitement around Elon himself, which also coincided with World Cup, but that doesn’t explain why it feels so off right now. Will share more in bit but have to catch a flight.
On a personal note Elon is funny as hell, laughs a ton and it’s just really obvious he cares about Twitter because he cares about free speech and the bigger problems facing the world. He doesn’t need this headache, he chose it.
Also huge shout out to @DavidSacks who is helping Elon clean up this mess because he believes in the fight for free speech as much as Elon does. And massive thanks to the engineers who iopened up their computers, showed me literally everything I asked for, and were total pros.
Oh, one either thing for now…
Elon really lit up when we talked about the shifting political landscape and how anyone non-woke is now “far right.”
That notion is deeply connected to how screwy thing got at Twitter and he’s working to fix it despite the huge challenges ahead.
And frankly they gotta get that company out of SF…
What’s also really crazy now having seen under the hood is that Jack Dorsey repeatedly said they don’t shadowban. The entire machine behind Twitter is designed to shadowban. It’s almost as if that was the primary goal rather than the product itself.
Perfect illustration of how crazy things are. A friend just sent the to me, watch the RT’s go up and then suddenly go down.
Perfect illustration of how crazy things are. A friend just sent the to me, watch the RT’s go up and then suddenly go down. @elonmusk pic.twitter.com/3Q0T7AcEMs
— Dave Rubin (@RubinReport) January 26, 2023
Engineer I’ve been working with contacted me on this specifically and said there is a technical reason this happens related to two data centers not syncing. They’re working on it.
“Accurate thread,” Elon Musk replied.
— Mr. Tweet (@elonmusk) January 26, 2023
The Twitter thread at least provides reassurances that the engineers are looking into the ongoing “shadowban” issues and appear to be looking to fix them.
Follow Kyle Becker on Twitter @kylenabecker.