Twitter is notoriously opaque about why it punishes its users. Often, suspended users will get a message informing them they have been banned for violating the site’s terms of service, without being told specifically what they did. Breitbart Tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos has yet to be told why his “verified” status was removed.
Twitter’s track record of arbitrary punishment even has progressive journalists like Glen Greenwald asking questions. It’s hard to know for certain what criteria, if any, is used to govern Twitter’s increasingly erratic censorship policies.
Implicit Twitter message: your time & energy'd be better devoted to a different platform than ours. We use arbitrary power, offer no reason
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) January 22, 2016
Nevertheless, by observing the pattern of punitive action against Twitter users, it’s possible to determine what sort of tweets can land you in hot water on the social network. In the first of a two-part series, Breitbart Tech has put together a helpful list of behaviours that could get you banned on Twitter, to help users navigate this confusing environment.
There are good legal reasons for Twitter to stop people making willy-nilly accusations of pedophilia. But what about exposing people who have already admitted that they’re pedophiles? Twitter will still ban you.
We’ve reported extensively on Sarah Nyberg, the progressive activist who moralizes about inappropriate content in video games and yet is a self-confessed pedophile and white nationalist.
Nyberg has yet to fully confront her past behaviour, in particular her fetishization of an underage cousin, yet Twitter will ban you if you bring it up. Twitter will lock your account and force you to delete tweets if you mention that Nyberg is a pedophile, despite the fact that she’s admitted to it herself.
Cruz is not an American. @realDonaldTrump please make America great and take him out. Make him the next Lindsay. 0 in the polls.
— Brenda (@bo38637) January 26, 2016
When someone suggests that a person be “taken out,” it could mean a number of things. Perhaps, as in the tweet above, they’re referring to a political contest. It could be a sporting metaphor — a Twitter search reveals UFC and WWE fans use the term all the time. Or, in extreme circumstances, it could be someone plotting an assassination.
When conservative blogger Chuck C. Johnson used the metaphor last year, promising to “take out” Black Lives Matter leader Deray McKesson, he was instantly banned from Twitter. McKesson claimed that Johnson’s ambiguous tweet constituted a threat of violence.
Johnson later clarified that he meant he simply wanted to expose McKesson’s dodgy dealings. But McKesson — a close friend of Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s pro-#BlackLivesMatter CEO, insisted that he remain banned.
He’s still banned.
We’ve extensively covered the antics of social justice opportunist Brianna Wu. She’s lied about a lot of things — in one case, wasting police time with bogus complaints about gamers who she said wanted to do her harm. (Yes, really.)
The latest controversy involves Wu’s college degree, which she references frequently. It turns out she may not have completed college. But you wouldn’t know if you were on Twitter. When Breitbart Tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos raised the issue, his account was locked and he was forced to delete his tweets.
“GamerGate supporters are much more attractive and joyous” than their opponents, tweeted actor Adam Baldwin before his account was abruptly locked. It was an insult by implication, of course, but unlike the people who regularly abuse GOP frontrunner Donald Trump, Baldwin wasn’t targeting anyone in particular. Indeed, the main thrust of his tweet was a compliment, not an insult. Perhaps it’s about who you talk about, not what you talk about.
Activist and former coder Randi Harper is one of the most notorious abusers on the internet. Breitbart Tech has run a number of stories exposing Harper’s trail of victims, which include a number of figures in tech who came between her and her political targets. Despite her penchant for online public shaming mobs, and her regular advice for other Twitter users to set themselves on fire, she apparently has not faced any censure on the platform.
Before Breitbart Tech began our coverage of Harper, she was investigated by blogger and video gamer Stephanie Greene. Guess what happened after Greene began her investigation? Her Twitter account was locked and she was asked to delete several non-abusive tweets about Harper.
How to succeed on Twitter
Twitter is treacherous territory these days. Even if you don’t get banned, if you send the wrong tweet to the wrong left-wing activists, before you know it you’re spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in a 3-year legal battle. As always, the safest option is to not have opinions and self-censor yourself to tweeting only about inane topics like your undying love for Zayn Malik or Taylor Swift. Alternatively, just avoid tweeting while being conservative. However, if you insist on getting political, we hope our guide will prove useful.
This is only the first half though. The savvy tweeter of 2016 doesn’t just want to know how to avoid failure on Twitter: they want to know how to succeed too. So stay tuned for the second part of our series, where we’ll list a number of successful strategies to use on the platform. I won’t spoil the article, but I will say that I’ve yet to see anyone banned for saying they want to punch Donald Trump.