X previews its 'shadowban' alerts

Accounts that share "sensitive content" will be labeled and restricted from search, recommendations and other features.

X Corp.

X is getting closer to releasing its long-promised alerts that will notify users about whether or not their account has been “shadowbanned.” Andrea Conway, a designer at X, offered a preview of the upcoming feature that Elon Musk first promised last year.

Conway shared two mock-ups: an alert in the notifications tab, as well as an informational page that explains why X may limit the visibility of some accounts. “We have found that your account potentially contains sensitive media — such as graphic, violent, nudity, sexual behavior, hateful symbols, or other sensitive content,” it explains.

“We may cover your posts with a warning so people who don’t want to see sensitive content can avoid it. The reach of your account and its content may also be restricted, such as being excluded from the For You and Following timelines, recommended notifications, trends, and search results.”

Underneath the message is an appeal button, so users can request X revisit its initial decision. Conway also said that users would likely be able to view their account status outside of the app’s notifications tab, but didn’t elaborate on how that might work. She added that the wording and user interface hasn't yet been finalized.

The company previously introduced a labeling feature for individual tweets that have been “visibility limited” for violating the company’s rules. But the latest update will take that a step further as the restrictions will be visible at the account level, not just for specific tweets.

The feature touches on what has long been a hot-button issue for Twitter, and now X. The company has for years limited the reach of accounts that break its rules. Under Twitter’s previous management, the practice was known as “visibility filtering.” But the company didn’t publicly share details about the practice, or which accounts it limited, which fueled conspiracy theories about “shadowbans.”

The issue came into the spotlight again last year after Musk turned over internal emails and other company records to independent journalists, who published records of Twitter executives discussing visibility filtering. Musk later promised that a future update “will show your true account status, so you know clearly if you’ve been shadowbanned, the reason why and how to appeal.”

Of course visibility filtering and so-called “shadowbanning” were never exactly the same thing. As Recode pointed out last year, Twitter for years said that shadowbanning refers to “deliberately making someone’s content undiscoverable to everyone except the person who posted it, unbeknownst to the original poster.” Whereas visibility filtering — both under Jack Dorsey and now Musk’s leadership — hides tweets from search, recommendations and other surfaces, but doesn’t make them completely invisible.

In any case, the forthcoming update should add some additional transparency — and, potentially, more controversy — to the practice. It’s not clear when the feature will make an official debut, but Conway said the company “should have more to share on this soon.”