By now, you probably already know about the massive Twitter hack that has taken place this evening where, in summary, the following has taken place: A massive hack which allegedly has originated at a Twitter employee with access to the user management panel was, has affected hundreds of billionaires and politicians, including Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Bill Gates, Kanye West, Elon Musk, Wiz Khalifa, Apple, Uber, Jeff Bezos, Benjamin Netanyahu Tweets urged people to send money to a Bitcoin address; over 3,000 has been sent so far Twitter has investigated and appears to have resolved most of the issue after taking down the offending Tweets and restoring access to the site for those with blue checkmarks, all of whom were previously shut down from the site For the full details
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By now, you probably already know about the massive Twitter hack that has taken place this evening where, in summary, the following has taken place:
A massive hack which allegedly has originated at a Twitter employee with access to the user management panel was, has affected hundreds of billionaires and politicians, including Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Bill Gates, Kanye West, Elon Musk, Wiz Khalifa, Apple, Uber, Jeff Bezos, Benjamin Netanyahu
Tweets urged people to send money to a Bitcoin address; over $113,000 has been sent so far
Twitter has investigated and appears to have resolved most of the issue after taking down the offending Tweets and restoring access to the site for those with blue checkmarks, all of whom were previously shut down from the site
For the full details on the hack, you can read our report on it here. But now, an even more sinister subplot is emerging from the ruins of Twitter's reputation.
Sources that are "close to or inside" the underground hacking community have leaked a screenshot of what is allegedly an internal software panel used by Twitter to interact with user accounts, according to a late Wednesday night report from Vice.
The tool is said to be used to help change ownership of popular accounts and, in the case of the hack, was said to play a role in usurping the high profile accounts involved. Here is a photo of the panel, with portions redacted by the leaker of the photo to Motherboard.
The interesting thing is that screenshots of the supposed internal software are being aggressively pursued and deleted from Twitter by Twitter itself, with the company claiming that they violate the platform's rules. In addition to being posted to Motherboard and Twitter, a similar image also appeared on a now deleted Tweet controlled by "Under the Breach". They have since said their account has been suspended for 12 hours as a result of them posting it.
Of particular interest are the buttons labeled "SEARCH BLACKLIST" and "TRENDS BLACKLIST". Could these be tools actively used by Twitter to censor what Tweets and topics appear during searches and on its trends page?
In other words, could this be the holy grail that all those who have accused Twitter over the years of shadowbanning conservative accounts, have been looking for?
"As per our rules, we're taking action on any private, personal information shared in Tweets," Twitter told Motherboard in response to inquiries about the screenshot, and its deletion or suspension of any account that posted it.
While we cannot confirm independently that the screenshot is, in fact, from Twitter's development/moderator tools, it certainly would open up a whole new can of worms regarding the hack if it turns out to be.
For example, we recently just wrote about Twitter's corporate initiative to ditch "offensive" words like "blacklist". We noted just about 2 weeks ago that Twitter had announced a list of words and phrases that their engineering team will begin using in place of 'problematic' language which "does not reflect our values as a company or represent the people we serve."
Of course, "blacklist" was on the list of supposedly outgoing terms - but if it's such a terrible word, why does it appear that Twitter continues to use it internally for the purposes of potentially identifying searches and trends they may not agree with?
Another example is from back in 2018, when Jack Dorsey took the Hill in Washington, D.C. to address the notion that Twitter could be disproportionately shadowbanning conservative voices on its site, Dorsey claimed that Twitter "believed strongly in being impartial", according to Vox:
Pressed again and again to admit to Twitter showing some type of bias, either systemic or personal, Dorsey consistently demurred. At one point, he sidestepped giving information, when challenged, about whether his own personal political leanings are liberal; at another, he refused to concede that President Trump’s Twitter account might be in violation of Twitter’s general content policies. “We believe strongly in being impartial,” Dorsey said, “and we strive to enforce our rules impartially.”
He also told Congress that Twitter's algorithms did not have a liberal bias:
In response, Dorsey repeatedly explained that the algorithm had no inherent political bias and was simply sorting Twitter content on the basis of numerous behavior signals from the accounts it was reviewing.
Perhaps the algorithms don't - but maybe those manually using this alleged interface do?
Regardless, once people are done asking how this unprecedented hack could have happened in the first place, we wouldn't be surprised if attention turns to how these moderation tools, if they truly exist, are being implemented.