“Type P-l-u into a Twitter search,” Professor Plum said as he walked into the mail room.

He read the mail…. (More)

The Squirrel tapped at his Blewberry, as Professor Plum asked.

“See?” Plum said. “Twitter’s suggestions don’t include me at all. It’s censorship!”

Chef coughed quietly. “Might that be because you don’t have a Twitter account?”

“Well,” Plum stammered, “uhh….”

The professor then left with Ms. Scarlet to join the resident faculty in the wine cellar mail room, where they’ll spend the weekend drinking thinking on our motto of Magis vinum, magis verum (“More wine, more truth”).

In the staff poker game, the Professor of Astrology Janitor wished Twitter’s search engine offered hints on tells. He had opened by raising with the Queen and Jack of Hearts. The Squirrel’s tail flicked as he pushed in chips to call, but the Professor of Astrology Janitor wasn’t sure if that was a nervous flick or merely the Squirrel keeping his balance. Chef again coughed quietly as she called, and the Professor of Astrology Janitor wondered if that was a sardonic cough, an anxious cough, or a dry-air-in-the-mail-room cough.

The flop brought the Ace of Clubs and the Sixes of Spades and Hearts. The Squirrel checked and Chef checked behind. Having nothing and sensing that one of them must have something, the Professor of Astrology Janitor chose discretion as the better part of valor, and checked as well.

The Four of Hearts on the turn didn’t seem to change anything. Again the Squirrel and Chef checked and, again wary of a trap, the Professor of Astrology Janitor checked behind.

The Jack of Spades on the river gave the Professor of Astrology Janitor a pair of Jacks. Now the Squirrel put in a pot-sized bet and Chef called.

The Squirrel might have been bluffing, but Chef would not call with nothing. Did she have a Six or a pair of Fours, for three of a kind? An Ace for Aces and Sixes? A Jack, for a pot-splitting Jacks and Sixes with the Ace on the board as kicker? Might she call with a smaller pocket pair, such as Tens? Did the Squirrel’s tail-flick or Chef’s cough mean anything?

The Professor of Astrology Janitor again decided discretion was the better part of valor, and folded. The Squirrel chittered and turned over the Ace and Nine of Diamonds for two pair, Aces and the Sixes on-board. Chef again coughed quietly and showed a pair of Sevens, for a smaller two pair.

“Do you have a cold?” the Professor of Astrology Janitor asked, looking at Chef. “Should I make breakfast?”

“I’m not sure,” Chef said. “About the cold or … well … I’d planned waffles. Do you know how to make those?”

The Professor of Astrology Janitor smiled. “After this hand, I feel like an expert on waffles. But could you talk me through it?”

She agreed and they went to the kitchen, leaving your lowly mail room clerk to review the week’s correspondence….

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Dear Ms. Crissie,

We were getting caught up in some type of trap to where people couldn’t see our Twitter feed. I don’t know what Twitter is up to. It sure looks to me like they are censoring people and they ought to stop it, and we’re looking at any legal remedies we can go through.

Devin in CA

Dear Devin,

We commend your capacity for hyperbolic persecution narratives. For example, your claim of “some kind of trap to where people couldn’t see our Twitter feed” is simply false. Your Twitter feed was never silenced. Your followers could read your tweets, as could anyone who went to your Twitter page.

As Twitter said in their public statement, what happened is that Twitter’s search auto-suggest does not aggressively promote you, as shown in the search result in the image above. If a user types D-e-v into their Twitter search bar, your name does appear on the auto-suggest list. It’s simply not at the top of that list. Your name moves higher up the auto-suggest list of the user types D-e-v-i or D-e-v-i-n and your name jumps to the top of the list of a user types D-e-v-i-n-[space]-n.

Twitter’s public statement also explained why their auto-suggest does not aggressively promote you:

• Tweets from bad-faith actors who intend to manipulate or divide the conversation should be ranked lower

This last bullet is the basis of our work around serving healthy public conversation. Here are some of the signals we use to determine bad-faith actors:

1) Specific account properties that indicate authenticity (e.g. whether you have a confirmed email address, how recently your account was created, whether you uploaded a profile image, etc)
2) What actions you take on Twitter (e.g. who you follow, who you retweet, etc)
3) How other accounts interact with you (e.g. who mutes you, who follows you, who retweets you, who blocks you, etc)

Specifically, Twitter said:

For the most part, we believe the issue had more to do with how other people were interacting with these representatives’ accounts than the accounts themselves (see bullet #3 above). There are communities that try to boost each other’s presence on the platform through coordinated engagement. We believe these types of actors engaged with the representatives’ accounts — the impact of this coordinated behavior, in combination with our implementation of search auto-suggestions, caused the representatives’ accounts to not show up in auto-suggestions. In addition to fixing search yesterday, we’re continuing to improve our system so it can better detect these situations and correct for them.

That is, Twitter’s traffic analysis found that your and others’ tweets were being pushed by the kind of “coordinated engagement” that Russian cyberwarfare agents used in 2015-16, and are still using today. That, not ideological bias, is why Twitter’s algorithm downgraded your search auto-suggestion rank.

As you continued to complain even after Twitter tweaked their algorithm, it seems you believe you are entitled to appear at the top of the auto-suggest list and feel “censored” if Twitter users must use four extra keystrokes to find your page. We conclude that says less about “censorship” than about your bloated sense of entitlement.

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Dear Ms. Crissie,

I guess Twitter is ‘censoring’ me too, as I have to type B-p-i-[space]-s to find myself at the top of the search auto-suggest list. Also, how are Chef and the Professor of Astrology Janitor making those waffles?

Waffling over Breakfast in Blogistan

Dear Squirrel,

We’re glad that you are easy to find on Twitter. As for the waffles, Chef and the Professor of Astrology Janitor are using the recipe at the link below. Bon appétit!

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Image Credits — Photo: Jonathan Ernst (Reuters); Illustration: Crissie Brown (BPICampus.com)

Devin in CA; Twitter public statement; the kind of “coordinated engagement” that Russian cyberwarfare agents used in 2015-16, and are still using today.

Waffles recipe.

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Happy Sunday!