Twitter Shadowbanned!

I've known for quite a while that I've been marked as "sensitive content" at Twitter. I first discovered it by checking to see my scheduled tweets were showing up, but while not logged into Twitter. I got this lovely screen:

If you haven't heard of this relatively new aspect of Twitter security, here's an overview. There appear to be gradients; if I log in as my non-adult-user and turn off "Hide sensitive content", I can see CR_LF and its tweets in searches just fine. Erosblog seems to indicate that you can be banned even further, to a point where you don't even show up if sensitive content is what the user wants to see.

I discovered a bit of insidiousness during my testing: the CR_LF twitter settings showed "Hide sensitive content" as enabled, which I definitely had turned off a long time ago. So, if you're someone who wants to see naughty stuff, better plan on checking those settings on a regular basis.

I'm sure the reason I'm shadowbanned is due to the amount of nudity I post; it's nearly all Playboy-grade cheesecake images, very little actual sexual contact, but it's more skin than a lot of internet users want in their feed, so I understand. The rest of my content isn't much more 'sensitive' than a lot of non-shadowbanned sexperts I can still get to on Twitter while not logged in. For a while I was seeing weird retweets from hair care companies, presumably because a nude phone was tagged #Redhead, and mountain-climbing aficionados because of the tag #Outdoors; I blame this on SEO bots -- I do not doubt that there are business who will, for a price, make you look like a real Twitter user by following and retweeting based on tags and I definitely encountered quite a few of those in recent years. I often would reply back to a new follow, who obviously hadn't viewed my content, with a "thanks for following!" which was immediately responded to with an unfollow. That's their fault, not mine.

So, I'm at the crossroads of: "what does this mean?" On one hand, this makes it harder to get readers: I post quite a few affiliate links, both adult and non-adult, and getting clicks and sales are what keeps me rolling in Mello Yello and Cheese-Its. I want to reach as big an audience as I can, and being blocked doesn't help this.

On the other hand: the people I do reach are those who have deliberately asked to view the type of content I'm providing: these are opt-in readers. If I had a golfing blog, and Twitter had a "Hide Golf-Related Content" checkbox, I'd definitely want to only reach those people who have unchecked that box; it's Marketing 101. It's the reason everyone wants you to sign up for their email mailing list (which if you think about it, is a downright ancient method of reaching people during the internet epoch). It's why Subway wants me to take a survey to get a free cookie, along with submitting my contact info. Twitter is filtering users, but in a way that helps thresh out the vanilla normal people from those with a taste for the naughty.

This only really helps tweeters like me, who is aiming for a more prurient level of content. I can totally understand why this has an impact on sex educators and erotic artists, both of whom have a definite value to those who aren't super interested in adult content but still have a need for knowledge. The "sensitive content" label also envelops hate speech and other content I don't want to be associated with, so the audience I'm reaching may still not be exactly who I want as a reader. It also appears that people are getting shadowbanned for swearing too much, so the banning appears to bundle together a bunch of "blue" content which isn't necessarily a monolithic group of like-minded individuals.

If you look back through this blog, the tone tends to be irreverant, appreciative of women's beauty, and sex-positive whenever possible. As things got busier at work and I have less time for real blogging, I moved towards just tweeting interesting links I found (which, really, were most of what the blog was made up beforehand). Google, long ago, made it difficult to find adult content, thanks to safesearch and pagerank, and people have moved to walled gardens like Twitter and Facebook; Looking at my twitter statistics, things I post get a lot more traffic than if I had posted them at the blog. Blogging's weakness is that people have to seek out the content in the first place; RSS feeds and the aforementioned mailing lists were a way to push content to people who desire to see it, but randomly running across something via search terms is becoming more difficult. Twitter seems like the right place to post, have people interested in the content see the post, and maybe respond with a like, or retweet, or very rarely a comment. That interaction makes the content more visible to other like-minded readers more interested in consuming that content too.

So, I'm hesitant to say that the "sensitive content" filter on Twitter has defeated my purpose for being on Twitter: the shadowban has created a Twitter-After-Dark, which those who elect to view it can do so. Although it reduces the number of possible content viewers, it is filtering them to those interested in the content I post, and the drawback comes from there being users who are unaware that the content filtering is enabled on their account; those are readers I want to reach but can't.

The "Share Our Shit" movement is important, not just because of shadowbanning or Google search results, but because the only reason content can reach readers on the internet is through curation and recommendation; the reason Facebook and Twitter exist is for those functions. If you've got an audience, and you're also someone else's audience, passing along things your audience appreciates matters more than attracting users you've never seen before. That's value in content, and it can still be done while shadowbanned.

It does show me that keeping all the eggs in one basket isn't the best option either; I tried crossposting images to Tumblr with little response, but I also haven't been an active Tumblr user to begin with. It has made me look again at this blog, which has been organized the way it is for at least ten years now (optimized for a 1024px wide screen!). As the internet has changed -- rewarding walled gardens and shadowbanning undesirable content -- I'm going to look at revamping what I've already got here. Not eliminating any of the existing content, but looking at some of the other tricks of modern content providers, cross-connecting content and holding readers eyeballs, as a way of being a useful content provider. It's something I've been working on a while -- again, busy real-life makes the internet harder to devote time to -- but we'll see what I come up with.

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