Technology

The Twitter policy that could temporarily censor every single one of your tweets

On Tuesday, a famous Palestinian-American journalist reporting reside from protests close to Jerusalem was immediately and mysteriously silenced on Twitter — with every single tweet changed by the message “@MariamBarghouti’s account is temporarily unavailable as a result of it violates the Twitter Media Policy.” It was a mistake, the corporate shortly admitted, and her tweets have been shortly restored.

However it seems that one half of the incident was not a mistake. Whereas Twitter could have taken motion on this particular person’s account in error, there truly is one specific state of affairs the place Twitter reserves the proper to make your tweets disappear. And — if you happen to ask me — it’s tremendous, tremendous dumb.

ive been on twitter what appears like my complete life and ive by no means seen earlier than what they’re doing to this palestinian journalist’s account pic.twitter.com/z6bSmLCvNn

— Casey Johnston (@caseyjohnston) May 11, 2021

Twitter pointed me to this page and this specific image for instance of the policy, which looks like it could date again so far as October 2017:

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I discovered references to this policy on Twitter’s web site relationship again to 2018, although you possibly can see an October 2017 timestamp on this theoretical instance.

There, the “Requiring media or profile edits” policy reads: “If an account’s profile or media content material isn’t compliant with our insurance policies, we could make it temporarily unavailable and require that the violator edit the media or data of their profile to adjust to our guidelines. We additionally clarify which policy their profile or media content material has violated.”

Or, in plain English, if your profile image, header picture, or different image you submit doesn’t meet Twitter’s requirements, Twitter received’t simply censor that picture — it could censor your complete account till you repair it.

Why would Twitter must notify individuals a few dangerous picture on every single tweet from an creator, as a substitute of simply omitting the picture and maybe offering a proof? Over the previous a number of years, we’ve seen many, many situations of Twitter selecting to put warning labels close by offensive and damaging content material, labels that nonetheless permit individuals to simply view these tweets.

Once I raised this query, a Twitter spokesperson would solely say that the policy is designed to “higher inform people on the actions taken by Twitter.” The firm declined to say extra.

The most beneficiant clarification I can muster is that that is an previous, antiquated policy that ought to have been retired way back.

Twitter additionally initially restricted Barghouti’s capacity to tweet, retweet, comply with and like for 12 hours, in keeping with screenshots she offered to The Verge. It’s not clear why her account was mistakenly censored to start with; Twitter couldn’t instantly say whether or not it was a human motion or an automatic system.

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