How to get suspended from Twitter

Twitter suspending actor Rose McGowan has raised questions about when and why the platform decides to gag users.

A number of high-profile people have had their accounts completely removed from the site in the past but, with other offenders allowed to continue posting, what do you actually need to do to get your account suspended?

What do the Twitter Rules say?

According to its rules, Twitter won’t tolerate violent threats – whether direct or indirect – as well as harassment or hateful conduct on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability or disease.

Posting private information without permission is also a problem, while trademark and copyright infringement can also earn you a suspension.

What does that look like in practice?

There have been high-profile examples of people breaking Twitter’s rules and receiving suspensions, such as Azealia Banks, who had her account completely removed following racist and homophobic remarks made towards Zayn Malik.

Some users considered Banks’s removal hypocritical (Joe Giddens/PA)

One of YouTube’s most popular and controversial stars, PewDiePie, has also had his account temporarily suspended in the past.

The 27-year-old joked that he and another YouTuber had joined Islamic State (IS), which breaks Twitter’s rules on “promoting terrorism”.

Proponent of the far-right Milo Yiannopoulos, meanwhile, hasn’t been seen on Twitter since instigating a campaign against actor Leslie Jones, which saw her flooded with racist and sexist abuse following her appearance in the latest Ghostbusters movie.

Twitter’s harassment policy states that accounts can be suspended if they “incite or engage in the targeted abuse or harassment of others”.

The platform considers whether the abuse is one-sided, includes threats, or is being sent by one person from multiple accounts.

Why are people unhappy about it?

A number of people, particularly women and other marginalised groups, feel that the site often finds people who’ve been demonstrably abusive not to be in violation of the rules.

Harassment on the platform has dominated headlines, whether for the vitriol directed at MPs ahead of the election, the effect it can have on mental health, or Twitter’s failure to adequately deal with it.

Then-chief executive Dick Costolo said in 2015: “We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we’ve sucked at it for years.”

More than two years later many Twitter users argue that not much has changed.

People from Adele to the editor of the New York Times have quit the site because of its abuse, while a video by Just Not Sports in 2016 showed just how poisonous and hateful online abuse targeted at women, just for existing, is.

What’s being done to tackle it?

Twitter – and other social media giants such as Facebook – might in future be asked to pay for the “undeniable suffering” people can face on their platforms, according to Culture Secretary Karen Bradley.

She wants the likes of Twitter to reveal the scale of abuse on their sites as she plans to tackle cyber-bullying, trolling and abuse online.

In July the company said its push to reduce abuse is paying off, and that it’s taking action against 10 times as many accounts a day as it was in 2016.

According to Twitter, 65% of accounts that were disciplined did not reoffend.

Are there accounts that break Twitter’s rules and don’t face suspension?

Some people believe some of Donald Trump’s tweets about North Korea violate Twitter’s rules (Evan Vucci/AP)

One of the biggest complaints levelled at Twitter is that it enforces its rules inconsistently.

It’s not difficult to identify users who say their reports of abuse have been ignored, or handled incorrectly.

Donald Trump is one of Twitter’s most frequently controversial users, and tweets sent by the US president in September about North Korean leader Kim Jong-un were interpreted by many as threatening the country’s extinction.

So many people requested that Mr Trump’s account be suspended following the posts that Twitter took the unusual step of commenting on one of his tweets.

The corporation argued that Mr Trump’s tweets hold “newsworthiness”, which is one of the factors apparently considered when deciding if a user has violated the rules.

Some people felt Twitter claiming to be committed to “keeping people informed about what’s happening in the world” wasn’t what was happening, and that by not suspending Mr Trump’s account they were influencing world events rather than simply informing people about them.

The bigger issue for other people, though, was simply consistency.

Mr Trump was again held up as an example of Twitter’s perceived inconsistency following McGowan’s suspension, even by McGowan herself.

When asked about these perceived inconsistencies, Twitter pointed to its thread about Mr Trump’s North Korea tweets.


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