Thursday, September 5, 2019

Twitter Account Suspended

Alas, my original Twitter account created ca. 2008 is no more. 

After mocking someone's tweet as a "fucking retarded" idea, my original Twitter account, @DarthContinent, got suspended. Upon appeal, despite clarifying my intent was not to disparage people with Down's syndrome but instead invoke the dictionary definition of "retarded", they had none of it and decided to permanently suspend my account.

Twitter might enforce its ToS in various benign ways the first few times you violate them. I've been in "Twitmo" aka Twitter jail numerous times for off-color remarks. Usually these are anything from being limited for 6-12 hours or even a few days. These infractions do rack up, and eventually lead up to a permanent suspension.

There is the possibility to appeal on the off chance that some technical issue on Twitter's end suspended your account by accident, but in my case appeals failed, likely because of my previous violations. That, on top of the absurd lengths Twitter goes to avoid having users talk to a human being to negotiate shows how little they seem to care.

Prior to the suspension I got a week-long stint for tweeting hopes that our toddler-in-chief POTUS 45 would "choke on a cheeseburger". 45 himself can tweet "fire and fury" to the nation of North Korea, but never does Twitter apply their rules to him. The reason I'm sure is that unlike my presence there, Trump generates lots of tasty page views, and thus ad revenue, for Twitter and its shareholders. 

Also, given his rabid fan base of largely fake followers, frequently users who voice opposition to their glorious, orangeish leader get mass-reported into suspension.


At any rate, I decided to try standing up a new account, being fairly careful not to wake the sleeping Twitter logic that susses out suspended users. Unfortunately, a week or so later, that effort ended poorly:

As a software developer and longtime IT guy, I know there are various ways for a given site to identify patterns and detect similarities. IP address (the network address your device uses to connect to the internet), email address, phone numbers, all are basic ways to identify and track users. 

Deeper and more insidious though I theorize that using Twitter's direct messaging also help Twitter tag you as a duplicate. 

I recall just prior to the second suspension happening, I'd messaged one of my longtime followers and let them know my old account @DarthContinent was suspended; in retrospect, big mistake. I'm sure that threw up a red flag, and whether Twitter's algorithms or something flagged for one of their support staff to review, I was toast.

Lesson learned. Just as you might evade profanity detection by altering characters or even phrases (e.g. "monkey funster" instead of "mother fucker"), don't type your suspended account name in DMs nor tweets (the latter is easy given a suspended account will never show up in Twitter's autocomplete when composing a new tweet).

I still have several backup accounts, and I'll slyly lurk on Twitter once more, that's not a big deal. It's a nuisance though in that all the followers and funny tweets are gone; when suspended you no longer get the option to download your content, for example (though I did this a few months back just for grins, so some might be resurrected, eventually). 

Fortunately, other than serving to help popularize my blog here and have fun with fellow Star Wars fans and call out the ridiculous man-child in the White House, it's not a loss. I had somewhere upwards of 70K tweets and around 5K followers, all accumulated more or less "organically" since I first created the account. I'm not like other Twitter users who've built their business around their presence there and racked up millions of followers. It's just an annoyance.

Many high-profile Twitter users have cried "censorship" when their account has been suspended permanently, notably conspiracy theorist and nutraceutical pusher Alex Jones. As xkcd explains, in the USA the First Amendment to the Constitution protects your right to free speech publicly, but in the realm of private corporations, workplaces, and elsewhere, it works differently. 

Thus far my experiment to keep my backup accounts is working, and here's why I think they're working:

  • I've completely avoided any mention of previously-suspended accounts in tweets.
  • I've avoided linking accounts to the same phone number for Twitter's SMS alerts (email is irrelevant; they won't let you use a previous email to create a new account).
  • I've behaved well within Twitter's ToS, with few exceptions.

On the bright side, Twitter saved me the trouble of eventually purging my account of political tweets once our broken government (hopefully) rights itself. Thus I remain on the down-low indefinitely, but I will persist! 😈