“No idea. Maybe some guys don’t want to see the facts”, said James Wilson, commenting on the apparent shadowbanning of his Twitter account. “Their post-truth propaganda is getting resisted.”
With 15,900 (and increasing by the minute) followers, Wilson’s account wasn’t discoverable by the native Twitter search function, as first pointed out by twitter user @Stupidosaur on Monday evening.
— #DestroyTheAadhaar (@Stupidosaur) September 4, 2017
Who is James Wilson?
Wilson has been a noted opponent of Demonetization and has written extensively about the same. He runs a blog called “Decipher the Demonetisation“, and is a contributor for The Wire. Wilson utilises a wide range of data analysis to tackle various facets of policy. His latest piece talks about tax and demonetization, and how it slowed the entire process of increase in the income tax base. A civil engineer by profession, Wilson is working with the Government of Kerala on deputation. He was also a contributor to our demonetization live blog.
A civil engineer by profession, Wilson wasn’t aware of the shadowban. “First, it was pointed out by @Stupidosaur, after which many started to point it out. I was not aware of it at all- all of this started last night.” A small, but vocal crowd has surfaced on Twitter, and have been blaming the government for covertly silencing Wilson’s account.
Govt shadow bans @jamewils on twitter! His invaluable articles & tweets that have shown them the mirror of truth scared the hell out of them
— Rachit Seth (@rachitseth) September 5, 2017
I hope @jamewils has backed up / saved his tweets elsewhere since they are now missing from Twitter. They are invaluable.
— kaveri (@ikaveri) September 5, 2017
Follow @jamewils . He has ripped apart Demonitization Data of Govt and RBI and exposed the lies. Appears Twitter has Shadow Banned him
— Joy (@Joydas) September 4, 2017
— Harini Calamur (@calamur) September 5, 2017
If you dont already, please follow @jamewils. Thread ninja and slayer of data based propaganda!
— Meghnad ?? ? (@Memeghnad) September 5, 2017
What is shadowbanning, and how will it affect Wilson?
Shadowbanning isn’t an unusual form of censorship. Practised widely by Reddit, the user’s activities and comments are hidden from everyone else. But in Wilson’s case, his tweets cannot be discovered through the search feature. In addition to that, the timelines curated by Twitter might not feature Wilson’s tweets due to his ban, widely affecting his reach. However, when asked about it, Wilson said: “I am not bothered by it at all. I have received 1,000 followers in a day. I’m least bothered about blue ticks or search options algorithm.”
Twitter is quite opaque about its censorship policy–it does not publish a list of accounts it has censored or shadowbanned as such. Wilson said he did not receive any prior intimation from Twitter, and often uses Twitter threads to stress his points against the government or the RBI.
Update: Twitter’s response
Twitter refused to comment on James Wilson’s account in particular, citing security and privacy reasons. They also specifically pointed towards their policy on ‘sensitive’ content, which can be found here.
However, even if one turns off the ‘sensitive’ filter, Wilson’s tweets do not show up on search results; only his profile does.
This is not the first instance of Twitter withholding content. In the past week itself, tweets concerning Kashmir were deemed sensitive, and the concerned accounts were removed.