Twitter Adds Transparency to Shadow Bans

Twitter has announced a new set of tweet-level alerts to reduce the impact of its moderation actions with the aim of allowing more kinds of speech to remain on the platform. These new alerts will be added to tweets that have had their visibility restricted in the app.

The Introduction of Visibility Labels

Twitter has started attaching new visibility labels to tweets that violate its rules, but not as such to lessen their reach and impact. Any restriction actions taken will be only at the tweet level and will not affect the user’s account.

Twitter is focusing on the violations of its Hateful Conduct policy initially but is planning on expanding these labels to other policy areas too. Twitter wants to move beyond the binary ‘leave up versus take down’ approach to content moderation by limiting the visibility of tweets.

Twitter’s announcement states: “Starting soon, we will add publicly visible labels to Tweets identified as potentially violating our policies letting you know we’ve limited their visibility”. This move is known as shadow banning, but Twitter’s approach differs in the sense that it provides upfront explanations.

Shadow Banning: A Matter of Free Speech Absolutist

Twitter’s past management was accused of shadow banning, which became one of the cardinal sins. Under Elon Musk’s leadership, Twitter has taken steps to rectify the issue. However, it still hasn’t addressed the key issue of harassment and hateful tweets directed at a user. If someone is being attacked, and those tweets are left up, the user will continue to be affected, even if those tweets are not visible to others.

The new process that has been implemented is referred to as light banning since the up-front notifications provide additional transparency. It will help users understand when their tweets have been restricted. However, with the implementation of this process, there is likely to be an increase in appeals, which Twitter may struggle to handle with 80% less staff.

Removal vs. Restriction

The new process still falls short of addressing the key issue of harassment and hateful tweets directed at a user. While some tweets get limited visibility, they may still have an impact on the user, and ultimately removal is the answer. In this new process, however, removal will happen less often, which could lead to more problems for Twitter and users.

Impact on Ad Partners

Twitter’s approach aligns with its ‘Freedom of Speech, not Freedom of Reach’ philosophy. Ads won’t be shown on any tweet that has been labeled. The true measure of Twitter’s process depends on what it decides to leave up versus removing and where it draws the line on clear rule violations subject to removal and those that are borderline.


The new process introduces transparency, which will help users to understand when their tweets have been restricted. However, it remains to be seen whether Twitter’s removal of visibility is compatible with free speech. The company will need to ensure that its moderation actions do not curtail the free speech of its users.