This morning, Twitter covered Ken "Popehat" White's profile page in balloons to celebrate his birthday. This afternoon, it suspended his account for posting screenshots of threats he'd received from another user.
The ranting missive, from a far-right lawyer in Texas whose threatening Twitter postings White had earlier mocked, promises such hatred and cruelty that White will want to kill himself or flee to "escape my wrath."
But it was White's response that fell afoul of Twitter's mysterious rules on posting personally identifying information—even when such information is disclosed and widely publicized.
Twitter is a private company. It has every right to suspend me or kick me off, however foolish its reason. It's got the right to free speech and free association. My rights have not been violated. I am not a victim. When you use a "free" service like Twitter and Facebook, you're buying into the policies and attitudes they pursue, for better or worse. Want a platform with no dumb policies? Create one or pay for one.
For the moment, I doubt this reflects an evaluation by anyone at Twitter that "it's okay for a deranged bigot to threaten people on Twitter but not okay to publish his threats." Rather, this is part of the inevitable result of automating responses to abuse complaints. Now, if Twitter reviews this, and thinks that's the right result — well, that would be something else again.
Twitter is still where the abusive can rail on and on before they get canned, while anyone with an earnest interest in using the site in good faith must adhere to vague, unhelpful policies in how they deal with all that trash.
UPDATE Twitter unsuspended White's account and agreed the original suspension was a mistake. Right on!
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