on falling afoul of Twitter’s banhammer
As of about midnight last night, I learned that I have been “permanently suspended” from Twitter. The reason given was “spamming or platform manipulation.” There was no warning, nor any indication of which tweets might have violated Twitter policy. My account has simply been locked down.
As anyone who ever looked at my Twitter feed could attest, I am guilty of neither spaming nor platform manipulation. (If I could figure out how to game the algorithm, I suspect I’d be selling more books through it). So, I must wonder what, exactly, got me banned. It happened rather soon after I retweeted several posts about Elon Musk’s forthcoming policies, such as only allowing Twitter Blue subscribers to participate in polls in the future. I find that policy grimly hilarious, since Musk governs by the fiat of the polls — so of course it’s to his benefit if the only people voting in them are those who’ve drunk enough of his Kool-Aid to give him money every month and help the richest man in the world settle the absurd debt he took on in acquiring the platform. My most offensive tweet in this stream, I confess, was likely my assertion that Musk’s ego has the tensile strength of dry basil.
I’ve heard reports before that Musk searches his own name, looking for just such things to be offended by, and certainly his fanboys do.
But maybe it wasn’t that. Maybe it was a malicious report by someone who doesn’t like my politics, or by someone I blocked (which I do with absolute freewheeling abandon), or who wanted to screw with me because I’m anti-AI-in-the-creative-arts, anti-piracy, anti-TechBro, anti-whatever-their-thing-is. I don’t know, because the accusation as stated is so absurd as to be irrelevant.
Among the many frustrating things about this ban is that it effectively hides all of my content — including the pinned post telling people where else to find me. If you’re here, well, you know one of those places; others can be found on my LinkTree.
Even more galling is the fact that I pretty frequently have to report people either for spamming or for abusive behavior. I’ve seen friends get death threats, get doxxed, get abused with racial or gendered slurs — and almost every one of those reports receives a “sorry, this does not violate our policies” response. This morning, a few friends have tweeted at Twitter Support on my behalf — and those posts, almost invariably, attract spammers claiming they can get my account back if I just pay them some money over on IG.
And never mind, of course, the actual criminals and seditionists that Musk gleefully welcomed back to the platform.
This is all within his right, of course. It’s his platform, and he can suspend or reinstate whom he pleases. It sure feels like so powerful a social engine shouldn’t operate that way, but it does.
I’ve filed an appeal, but gods only know if or when it might come to anyone’s attention. Some friends have asked if they can do anything to help, and I honestly don’t know. In the past, I have seen others who were maliciously reported and suspended get reinstated after enough people made noise about it, so it’s possible that tweeting at TwitterSupport and pointing out their error might move my appeal up someone’s to-do list. But, Twitter is grievously understaffed, and many of those still there are held hostage by work visas. It’s hard to say what will be effective.
Hell is empty, and all the devils are here
Back in November, I blogged about Twitter’s likely downfall. Honestly, in some ways I’m very surprised the platform has survived as long post-acquisition as it has. Musk has certainly been doing his best to get it to fail. And yet, it has churned on.
This suspension brings into stark relief my fear from the autumn, though: that my dependence on that platform, personally and professionally, means that losing it will have significant impacts on my life.
In a lot of ways, that sounds so absurd. It makes me feel like the petulant 13 year old version of myself who thought she would just die when her parents took away AOL for a week.
But the internet is more fully a part of everyday adult life than it was in 1998, and for certain communities, Twitter did become vital. As I said in November, my writing life would not be what it is without that platform.
I had, at the time of my suspension, somewhere around 4100 followers. I’m not a big dog in the Twitter park, but that following is meaningful. It’s meaningful to me just as someone who likes talking to people, who found a lot of community on Twitter, who likes reading and saying clever things. But it is, somewhat tragically, also meaningful to me as a creative professional.
Any author will tell you that your Twitter following has no direct impact your sales numbers, but the indirect impact can be huge. Twitter is often how writers find each other — and when a writer recommends a fellow writer’s book, that actually can move the sales needle a little increment. (And at my level, little increments are a big deal). A thread going viral can suddenly get you new followers, who may, over time, become readers. It’s where people who might be interested in acquiring my work can check me out to see if I’ve got an engaging personality that might be marketable, and depressing as it often is to be a brand, that’s the reality of our current capitalistic paradigm. So I worry, a lot, about losing all of that and what it might mean for my future career as a writer.
[hautboys and torches]
Last night, I was angry. And I’m still angry, but I’m also scared and sad, and those emotions are starting to win out. I’m mourning the loss of connection, just as I feared I’d have to back in the autumn.
And I don’t know where else to go.
I’ve tried basically every other platform that’s flared up in the last six months. All of them have disadvantages of their own, and that’s to be expected on any platform — but none of them offered real advantages over Twitter. Take Spoutible, for instance, which I had high hopes for — but which very quickly demonstrated that, since it’s also run by an individual with an apparently fragile ego, it’s subject to the same vagaries as Twitter. Plus, I found the vibe there to be full of toxic positivity and puritanical leanings, and I just… do not want that. So while Twitter was still bad, why would I trade it for a similarly bad place where I had only 40 followers rather than 4000?
And that’s the calculus everywhere. Every other platform has some issue, whether it’s useability or discoverability or toxicity. Clearly, I’ll tolerate a certain amount of those problems — but only when there’s sufficient value in doing so.
If I manage to get reinstated, I know I’ll go back to the hellsite. It might be a toxic relationship, but… well, I like it there. I like my friends there! I like sharing their books and hearing about new releases and participating in hashtag games! My Twitter experience has stayed pretty good even over the past few months, because I have always used Tweetdeck, which means I don’t see ads, I don’t see algorithm-inflicted posts, and I see everything in the proper order — or, saw, rather. (And on desktop, anyway — Musk did kill off all the third-party mobile apps that did the same thing, like TweetBot.)
My point is that Twitter has long been where I go for connection and community. It’s where I go to express my random thoughts and know that at least someone’s hearing them. If I don’t get it back, I will miss it. I will miss the friends that I won’t be able to find elsewhere. I will miss the ease of use.
I continue to pray for the rise of a new platform, something that takes the best bits of Twitter (ease of use, discoverability, ability to attract users) and adds new things or revives things we loved about platforms in the past (rigorous protections from abuse, ability to control our data, ability to control who sees and can interact with posts). As I’ve said before, I would pay for such a platform. I spent a few bucks on the Spoutible experiment, alas, and I paid for LiveJournal for years, back in the day.
But I will absolutely be damned before I pay Elon Musk a single red cent.
3 thoughts on “Well. This is frustrating.”
Check out Mastodon servers. There is an explanation of what it is, and a list of writer-centric servers for writers at this link https://mefmobile.org/best-mastodon-serves-for-writers/
The Exec summary is: It’s like twitter got smashed with email. You have a server/community you can choose from but they all inter operate. So you can follow and interact with anyone on any other mastodon server.
There are even ways to get the folks you follow on twitter to show up on Mastodon, read only though. This is the way of the future.
Yeah, I’m on Mastodon, but I don’t love it. I have several issues with it, but primary among them is that I find the UI ugly. The learning curve is also high enough that it’s always going to limit discoverability.
Using an app may help mitigate the UI, there are many out there already. But I understand you aesthetic concerns. There’s one I liked, but the icon was so ugly I couldn’t bear it on my phone screen. LOL —— maybe I was just an unsophisticated twitter user, but I’d encourage to stick with it a bit as my own opinion is that, yes, some things are in different places, but once you’re on a chosen server, it’s all pretty much the same.