[Updated 16 June 2018 at bottom] Can someone explain Twitter? Not in the “you can share
140 280-character snippets of daily life” sense, but in the “what is going on with that platform?” sense? As I see it, it’s a bunch of Twitter nonsense.
Earlier this morning, I get around to changing my password on Twitter because they were leaked out. Now, I should back up to say that I signed off from Twitter at the end of 2017 because I had thought Twitter had become more noise than signal and, frankly, had outlived its usefulness for me. Not to mention that Twitter had some pretty murky reasons for defending hate speech, something that made me uncomfortable. (To be fair, their guidelines changed earlier this year.) As I thought about signing back in and breaking my Twitter silence in April, I read that they were changing their API so that my usual Twitter client, Tweetbot, would be significantly limited to access the service.
So fast-forward to this morning. As I sign in to change my password, I’m presented with this graphic:
My account, @edwardjensen, has been suspended with no reason or rationale given for its suspension. The help pages are pathetically useless, only giving roundabout reasons for suspending an account. I had not received any advance warning in my email about this suspension. It’s not that the account has been sitting dormant for too long: the Twitter account for The Downtown Phoenix Podcast (@dtphxpodcast) last updated on 31 December 2016. It couldn’t have been for content as the last post on my personal Twitter account was on 31 December 2017. Did someone report my account? Again, why wasn’t I notified?
The moral of the story is this: When you use an external service, you’re at their mercy for what they will allow or disallow and often times, it’s a random mess based on their algorithms and what those services think they want you to see. When social media started moving away from chronological post feeds to an algorithm-driven “news feed,” that’s the moment when we lost it. When social media started removing human editors from the equation to curate what happened in favor of computer processes, that’s also the moment when we lost it. When social media started pay-to-play to get more eyeballs on posts, we lost an egalitarian community message board and went to a plutocratic space.
The point of this mini essay is this: When you create content, unless you’re hosting it on a platform that’s wholly under your control, there’s no guarantee that it will be out there in the future.
That should give everyone pause. Because today’s Twitter nonsense might have greater ramifications for society tomorrow.
[Edited to add: On 16 June 2018, my Twitter account was unlocked. In the email from Twitter support, “[It] looks like your account got caught up in one of these spam groups by mistake. This sometimes happens when an account exhibits automated behavior in violation of the Twitter Rules (https://twitter.com/rules).” In reviewing the Twitter Rules, I can’t find out what I specifically did to have Twitter’s algorithms think my account is a spammy account. That should give people even more pause.]