What Are Twitter's Bot Farms and Hidden Forms of Censorship?

Apps Mar 16, 2021

What is Twitter censorship?
Many people already think that Twitter has become a political platform, but this is not exactly true. However, key political events are always instantly posted and discussed on Twitter. Nowadays, it is no secret that Twitter is used by political strategists to obtain the desired result in the elections and by organizers of various protest movements. Sometimes tweets go beyond what is allowed, including Twitter Terms of Service. If a user violates the rules, Twitter may block the content or user account, but it is a mistake to think that this is what Twitter censorship is.

More often, censorship is the result of a country's government or court order. For example, in China, Twitter is simply prohibited by the government.

How is Twitter censored?
In most cases, when the authorities do not want the citizens to be aware of any events, they will directly deny access from this country's IP addresses to the website, blocking the service for all those who do not use a VPN.

As another tactic, the country's government may take legal action on Twitter, such as a court order that obliges the platform to ban or remove specific content. It often happens when local laws differ from the US laws under which Twitter operates. Usually, such demands are caused by undesirable posts for the authorities, which often infringes upon the freedom of speech. Twitter reviews the court order and then decides whether to comply with it or not.

Self-censorship of Twitter
Most of the Twitter censorship cases were made by the company without any direct influence from the presidential administration, state, or federal government. In 2018, several Twitter self-censorship cases were recorded: banning or non-indexing certain users and eliminating specific trends. In some cases, these accounts and trends clearly violated the terms of service, while it is unknown what influenced the decision to block others in other cases.

Bot farms on Twitter
After the 2016 U.S. presidential election, most Twitter users learned that a significant number of accounts were registered on the social network, the purpose of which was to influence the election results. While some of these accounts were managed by genuine political enthusiasts, others were the product of so-called bot farms hailing from Russia, Belarus, Turkey, or Saudi Arabia. The bots' purpose was to influence voters' opinions and persuade them to choose a particular candidate for the United States' presidency.

As soon as it became known, Twitter began to identify accounts with the same political content from the same IP address, and these accounts were banned. It is not yet known how it was determined.

Hidden forms of Twitter's censorship
In 2018, it was noticed that several conservative experts and party supporters no longer appeared in Twitter search results, although their accounts have not been banned or deleted. The possibility of hidden censorship outrages Twitter users. Leslie Berland, the Chief Marketing Officer at Twitter, and even Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey strongly deny that such practice was ever used.

Fortunately, Twitter censorship is not widespread, but it does exist, and most often, Twitter censorship is practiced by various governments to control the flow of information on this social network. In an era where freedom of speech is constantly under attack, and most relevant information must be provided by activists and journalists immediately, it should not be allowed.