Twitter Account Suspended; Social Media’s War on ‘Controversial Content’

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Daniel Roux /Flickr

Yesterday, our Twitter account (@trumpimpeachmnt) was suspended. As is common with the social media giants when they do something like this, they don’t bother giving you a specific reason. Too much trouble (read: money to pay real people) to provide that courtesy. When I log into the Twitter account, there is a banner across the top informing us that the account is suspended for breaking the rules. For convenience, they provide a link to some general information on suspended accounts, including a full list of rules, one or more we are accused of breaking.

Now, I am not going to claim innocence on behalf of our Twitter account. In fact, I will admit that I was doing things that are against the Twitter rules. Specifically, I was breaking the “spam” guidelines by posting similar content multiple times. You have to do this to get your word heard, since Twitter as its very name suggests, is a fleeting medium. If you tweet at the wrong time, you will not be heard and the half-life of a tweet is very small. So yes, we were breaking the rules, but here’s the thing: every website breaks these rules.

In fact, I was attempting to implement the Twitter posting pattern that I saw on the Twitter account of a progressive web site. I won’t mention their name because I don’t want to cause issues for them, but they clearly post similar content multiple times a day on their Twitter account. That website, like http://thetrumpimpeachment.com publishes articles that question the legitimacy and fitness of Trump for the office of the president on a daily basis. The difference? They don’t have a name that clearly identifies their agenda. I would argue that they are as anti-Trump as this website, but their name and masthead hide this behind a generic-sounding progressive, Democratic-leaning wording.

I will also point out that the Trump Impeachment Twitter account has been around since January 2017 and that it does not have a recent history of complaints against it (at least not that Twitter has informed us of) or being locked for violations. When we first started using the account, we did get locked out a few times for breaking the rules, but since then we figured things out and, as far as we knew, we have been operating within the rules or the acceptable tolerance of their violation.

As a quick Google search suggested I do, I immediately appealed the Twitter suspension. I admitted that I was spamming the account while configuring some new automation tools and apologized for my error. Surprisingly, I got a response back from my appeal in less than 24 hours–Google had warned me not to expect it this fast. When I got the response, I realized why they were able to turn it around so fast.

Hello,

Your account has been suspended due to multiple or repeat violations of the Twitter Rules: https://twitter.com/rules

Please do not respond to this email as replies and new appeals for this account will not be monitored.

Thanks,

Twitter Support

It’s all very Kafkaesque. No mention of any specific rules broken. In fact, it could be that we are violating multiple rules or are being suspended for being a repeat offender. I assume we are breaking multiple rules since it has a been over a year since we have been flagged for breaking any rules. Or maybe that is the problem. I can’t really be sure since Twitter still isn’t bothering to list the alleged rules we have violated. And it’s pretty clear that Twitter doesn’t want to hear from us about his anymore. If you respond to this email, we will ignore you, and if you appeal again, we will ignore you. Kafka couldn’t have put it any better.

Now I am going to speculate what has happened here. I feel justified in this speculation since Twitter has left me little other to do than to speculate, not giving me anything specific. I suspect that my posting experiments triggered one of their automatic spam detectors, then they took one quick look at the name of the account and decided this was a good excuse to purge this trouble-making account from their newly pristine social media platform. Then they can report back to their shareholders or Congress if they are summoned, that they have been purging all these annoying bots and Russian hacker accounts. We have been accused of both those these, but we are real people, and not Russian.

It really shouldn’t come as a surprise. Ever since the writing has been on the wall that Mark Zuckerberg was going to have to buy a suit so he could testify before Congress on behalf of social media, the social media giants Facebook and Twitter–and I assume all the others–have been at war with anyone who distributes what they call “controversial content”.

In fact, Facebook has been systematically attacking all our privileges on their system for the last two months. Yet only six months ago, they were eager to have us register for their Instant Articles program and encouraging us to “boost” our posts, which is paying Facebook to show your post to more people than they would get on their own. Now they have stripped us of most of these privileges, without giving a reason more specific than “you broke the rules, go read them, figure it out for yourself.”

So what we have here is selective enforcement of the rules in order to make it seem like the social media giants are doing something to combat the clear attempts by actors like Cambridge Analytica and Russian agents who use sophisticated tools and deep pockets to manipulate the America people. To be perfectly clear. None of these rules are new. Twitter and Facebook were happy to not enforce their own rules and pocket the ad revenues until the risk that Congress might regulate their gravy train became a reality.

The problem is that in their eagerness to rid their platforms of “controversial content”, they are eliminating those alternative voices that are honest enough to be explicit about their point of view. Do you really think the Russians were using accounts like “Russian Agents For Trump” during the election campaign? It’s not the forthright accounts that need to be removed. It’s the accounts that hide behind false facades that are the problem.

But it’s too hard (read: costs too much money) to separate the bad actors from the voices of protest, so they just round up a bunch of sketchy looking types and run them out of town.

It’s amazing how these social media platforms, once eager to defend freedom of speech on their platform when they were being richly rewarded have now, under the threat of regulation, have so quickly transformed from the blind-eye sheriff to the shoot-first-ask-questions later-sheriff. A type of sheriff, by the way, who is an effective agent of the state that wishes to suppress alternate voices, unless, of course, those voices have a lot of money to spend. Perfect for the new Trumpian reality.

Here at thetrumpimpeachment.com, we are going to roll with this punch and not let it or any other attempt by social media to mute our voice to deter us from spreading the word about Trump’s lack of fitness for his office, the corruption of his administration, and the harm that he and his cronies are doing to America. We continue to resist.

If you want to make sure you don’t miss our content even if social media kicks us out, sign up for our newsletter. The email will always go out. Twitter and Facebook can’t stop that.


Update:

I opened a new support case with Twitter asking for clarification about whether the account suspension is temporary or permanent since it doesn’t say one way or another. You will note that in the banner (see photo above), it says that the account is “currently suspended”, which reads like a temporary state to me. Twitter has kindly replied with the level of detail and specificity that I have come to expect from these social media companies:

Hello,

Your account has been suspended due to multiple or repeat violations of the Twitter Rules: https://twitter.com/rules

Please do not respond to this email as replies and new appeals for this account will not be monitored.

Thanks,

Twitter Support

Yep. With the exact same boilerplate response as before.

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