Elon Musk says more changes are coming to Twitter, including giving users the ability to see if they have been “shadowbanned” and to pick from a trove of dormant usernames.
When they post to social media, users often believe that they’re sending their thoughts out to the world, but the companies running these platforms don’t always amplify those posts. “Shadowbanning” refers to the idea that users can see their new posts on their own profiles but that others may be far less likely to see that content in news feeds because it’s being deprioritized by the platform, whether for being spammy or for other reasons.
The black box of social-media “reach” is hardly unique to Twitter, as different sites have their own policies for what does and doesn’t get amplified. But Musk suggests he’ll bring the practice out into the open more.
Musk has said he wants to promote his view of free speech through his Twitter purchase, and in November, he outlined what that might look like:
The implication was that Twitter wouldn’t necessarily suspend or ban “negative” accounts but would rather seek to make it harder for people to find that “negative” content. He clarified that the policy would apply “just to the individual tweet, not the whole account.”
Musk hinted at more transparency around the process in a late Thursday tweet, saying that Twitter was working on software that could show users whether their content was being hidden.
Musk also said Friday morning that Twitter would “soon start freeing the name space of 1.5 billion accounts.”
Early adopters of tech platforms are able to scoop up attractive usernames, like first names, but they don’t always stick with the site, leaving their accounts dormant. The idea of jolting interest in platforms by giving current users a crack at these high-status usernames is not exactly new, however: Yahoo, amid fading relevance, made a similar move with old email IDs back in 2013, according to The Wall Street Journal.
While Musk has, at various points since officially buying Twitter, pointed to strong recent user activity on the site, the company reportedly is under advertising pressure. Musk earlier this month implored Twitter lurkers to engage more frequently.