How Trolls Locked My Twitter Account For 10 Days, in addition to Welp

The Monday before Thanksgiving, I awoke to my personal nightmare: I had been reported for abuse on Twitter (my favorite thing to look at while I crap), in addition to my account was frozen.

I wasn’t totally shocked, although I was surprised the situation had gone This specific far. More importantly, the experience gave me unique insight into how Twitter’s moderation system actually works, by the inconsistent replies This specific gave to people who reported my tweets to its complete silence after I filled out an “appeal” to reinstate my account.

A few days before, I got a flood of replies to an old tweet by 2011 that will said “kill all white people”.

I’m sure in 2011 I thought This specific was a funny joke (look carefully, in addition to you will notice the Ironic Capitalization), though This specific’s not so funny currently when there are Literal Nazis running amok. The ironic thing about Literal Nazis will be that will they have weaponized taking things literally. in addition to that will’s what they did here.

The day before my tweet was reported, Twitter had de-verified Richard Spencer in addition to a few different high-profile white nationalist accounts. In response, their supporters wanted to expose Twitter’s supposed hypocrisy for allowing verified users to tweet mean things about white people.

A few larger white nationalist or alt-right Twitter accounts shared my tweet as well as some similar ones by verified users. My guess will be someone just searched a few phrases like “I hate white people” in addition to picked out the verified accounts. Someone even made This specific collage:

The replies feigned shock in addition to fear at the outrageous nature of the tweet in addition to plenty suggested This specific should be reported to Twitter.

@simostransit @katienotopoulos Dear @BuzzFeed your hack Katie just threatened to kill all whites can we have a pict… https://t.co/sTrPi2DWob

“This specific’s OK to be white” will be the latest meme in addition to slogan of the alt right; This specific’s a deviously polite attack on social justice while narrowly skirting overt white supremacy. This specific’s not the 14 words, This specific’s just “OK”. The coordinated campaign to find people who had said anti-white tweets in addition to then report them for abuse will be part of This specific fixation on reverse racism being perpetrated by their fellow whites. This specific’s not surprising to me that will some of the replies to me said that will exact phrase.

I ignored the angry replies; I assumed This specific would certainly just die down in addition to they’d move on. although then three days later, my account was locked – the flood of reports had worked. When I opened Twitter, I was prompted to delete 5 offending tweets. The first was “kill all men” – puzzling, since that will wasn’t even one of the tweets that will the trolls had been replying to.

Twitter gives you an option to appeal if you think your account was locked in error. I believed This specific was clearly a mistake, so I filed my appeal.

in addition to then I waited. 10 days.

During This specific time, I couldn’t look at Twitter. Locked, as opposed to suspended, will be a purgatory where your account still exists in addition to people can view This specific, although you can’t tweet, read your timeline, or access DMs. Weirdly there’s a little loophole because Tweetdeck will be such a wonky product that will my timeline kept updating, even though my replies didn’t.

This specific will be not a secret that will Twitter carries a two-tiered system, where celebrities in addition to verified users can get support in ways that will the unwashed masses don’t. This specific isn’t because there’s some special second technical system for important accounts, just that will the more access in addition to influence you have, the greater your ability to talk to a Twitter employee — not just a contractor doing customer support — to get help. When Rose McGowan was briefly suspended, she was reinstated 12 hours later after getting in touch with her team; last weekend, a brand new York Times account was locked after a tweet about Justin Trudeau was flagged by a moderator as “hateful,” in addition to the account was unfrozen 24 hours later. If This specific happened to a BuzzFeed official account, we would certainly immediately reach out to Twitter for help. Celebrities in addition to media outlets can reach out for help instead of waiting over a week for customer support. In cases like McGowan’s — she was from the middle of an important critique of harassment in Hollywood when she was suspended — This specific kind of prioritization will be a Great thing. although for so many who’re serially abused on the platform, This specific’s a source of endless frustration.

As a tech reporter for BuzzFeed News, I have some amount of access to Twitter. although I wanted to see how the process works for a normal person, not a tech reporter having a large media organization that will also does business with Twitter.

So I waited. Thanksgiving passed. I actually talked to my family instead of hiding from the bathroom to look at Twitter. This specific wasn’t so bad! I read headlines from the Apple News app (in addition to the BuzzFeed News app, of course). I remained blissfully unaware of the often toxic conversation that will was surrounding the news. In a group text, someone mentioned something about “the NYT Nazi”. I thought he meant that will someone discovered a Nazi was working at the Times.

As far as my offending tweets, I didn’t delete them in addition to get my account back right away For 2 reasons:

The first will be because I think there’s some merit to explaining why or why not one might consider my tweet a serious piece of hate speech. I can think of nothing more tiresome than debating whether “kill all white people” will be the same as “kill all black people”, so I’ll spare you. Was I joking? Of course. although being 100% serious isn’t definitely a requirement for harassment. If someone tweets “I’m going to come to your house in addition to kill you” at me, I don’t have to prove they truly mean This specific, in addition to I shouldn’t have to. Perhaps one of the weird elements of This specific will be that will what seemed like funny satire embedded as part of a longer (currently deleted) chain of replies in 2011 doesn’t work at all in 2017. I would certainly have never tweeted that will currently; even the 2013 “kill all men” tweet will be incredibly dated in its ironic misandry. A relic of a different part of ‘Weird Twitter.’

The second way of looking at This specific This specific will be much more relevant: Viewed from the context of Twitter culture in 2017, This specific will be very obviously a bad faith campaign by white nationalists in addition to alt-right accounts to target members of the mainstream media for harassment by exploiting Twitter’s policies, which are riddled with loopholes in addition to vague interpretations.

In fact, Twitter’s abuse policy will be so flaky that will the platform couldn’t seem to decide if my tweets broke the rules or not. A few weeks ago, someone filed a report about the very tweet my account was locked over in addition to tweeted out screenshots showing the “kill all white people” tweet wasn’t a violation of Twitter’s rules.

So yesterday I did a little experiment. The only accounts I ever report are paedos & Isis fanboys, although decided to r… https://t.co/qe1Yol4l4n

The inconsistencies dredged up a few questions about moderation — namely, from the precious few moments a Twitter Trust in addition to Safety moderator had with my report, what exactly were they evaluating? Did they look only at the words in my tweet? Or they did they look at the whole picture, including: What were the types of accounts that will were producing the reports? Did they happen to have white nationalists symbols or terms in their icons or bios? What kind of account will be @katienotopoulos? Without context, the tweet will be potentially very offensive. although with context maybe This specific looks different. For example, what — besides a coordinated trolling effort — would certainly be the explanation for a flood of reports on a reply tweet by 2013 that will had four likes?

So when I filed my appeal to the support team, they had a second chance to look at the situation. I wanted to know: would certainly they only look at the content of my offending tweets, or would certainly they look at the context? This specific isn’t about my regrettable tweet by 2011, This specific’s about a broad cultural war between far right accounts in addition to the mainstream. although will a Twitter support team member see This specific? Are they just producing verdicts on single tweets, or do they act as a proper community moderator, someone who knows in addition to understands the culture of the platform?


The appeal form tells you This specific takes “several days” for the support team to handle your request. After ten days, I got an email by Twitter saying they rejected my appeal. The “locked” status would certainly remain, in addition to my only option was to delete the tweet.

I reached out to Twitter as a journalist to find out more about the process. A representative told me that will the company doesn’t give out information on the timing of their support process, so the 10-day wait could be totally normal, or potentially even faster than average.

Twitter was also unable explain why or if “kill all white people” was the tweet that will caused my account to be locked, nor could the company explain the inconsistency when others reported the tweet in addition to were told This specific wasn’t a violation.

Once I had received my verdict by Twitter support, I had no choice by to move forward in addition to delete the tweets. having a heavy heart, I had to say goodbye to my beloved children (my tweets).

In my case, the entire locked-account saga was pretty low stakes compared to others who rely on their accounts as a means to be heard in addition to who’ve been locked or suspended on a technicality. although from the context of the last week, my situation feels increasingly frustrating — reasonable evidence that will Twitter’s abuse enforcement priorities may be skewed from the wrong direction.

When Trump retweeted violent anti-Muslim content by a Britain First account, Twitter told CNN one reason for allowing the videos to stay up — then Jack Dorsey tweeted that will they left them up for a different reason.

I’m not mad that will the system works slightly differently for the president than This specific does for me. He also gets to drive through red lights on his motorcade in addition to I’m not bitching about that will. although the way Twitter decides what stays in addition to what goes seems to be pretty arbitrary.

Twitter has been trying to figure out how to deal with abuse in addition to harassment for the better part of two years currently, in addition to This specific continues to be a real shitshow with no clear fix in sight. Maybe they should treat This specific like an old school messageboard where community managers act fast in addition to loose with the banhammer, doling This specific out without question. Maybe!

although for currently, Twitter will be getting played. They’re trying to crack down on the worst of Twitter by applying the rules to everyone, seemingly without much context. although by doing that will, they’re allowing those in bad faith to use Twitter’s reporting system in addition to tools against those operating in Great faith. Twitter’s current system relies on a level playing field. although as anyone who understands the internet knows all too well, the trolls are always one step ahead.

Katie Notopoulos will be a senior editor for BuzzFeed News in addition to will be based in brand new York. Notopoulos writes about tech in addition to internet culture will be cohost of the Internet Explorer podcast.

Contact Katie Notopoulos at katie@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit This specific here.

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