As I posted yesterday, I was suspended on Twitter late in the morning even though I couldn’t imagine having violated any of the platform’s rules – or at least the best known ones, which seek to bar bullying and hate speech and other such noxious practices. (Not that I’m saying I agree with this Twitter policy, largely because of related free speech and definitional concerns, but that’s a separate issue.)
Late in the afternoon, I was pleased to learn that I had been reinstated. I was also pleased that Twitter responded in detail to my request for an explanation for its decision – though I must confess to being puzzled by its rationale, and by its belief (or by the parameters used by the algorithms that apparently make most of these calls) responsible for the suspension.
According to Twitter, I had been:
>”using a trending or popular hashtag with an intent to subvert or manipulate a conversation or to drive traffic or attention to accounts, websites, products, services, or initiatives”; and
>”tweeting with excessive, unrelated hashtags in a single Tweet or across multiple tweets.”
For those of you unfamiliar with the hashtag thing, it involves putting the symbol that looks like a tic-tac-toe puzzle in front of a term in order to capitalize on that term’s popularity in Twitter-verse in order to call attention to a Tweet. So for example, in Tweets I send out naming the President, I use #Trump. In Tweets I send out about the monthly U.S. jobs reports, I use #jobs. And typically, since individual Tweets usually included several such terms, these Tweets would include multiple hashtags. (E.g., #jobs and #economy.)
Since one of my main purposes in Tweeting is reaching the largest possible audience with my material, I thought the practice completely natural. And P.S. – I’m far from the only Tweeter who uses it (although I have acquired something of a reputation for using them frequently).
As a result, I’m completely mystified by the claim that I’ve used hashtags “excessively.” And I’m totally baffled at also being accused of using “unrelated hashtags” – since all those I included would be bearing on the Tweet’s main subject.
Have I been using “trending or popular hashtags” to “subvert or manipulate a conversation”? What on earth does that mean? And as for “driving traffic to accounts”? Of course, as mentioned above, I’ve been hoping to attract attention to my own. But that’s the whole point of using hashtags – and of Twitter offering the feature in the first place!
Finally, the only “website, product, service, or initiative” I’ve ever used hashtags, excessively or not, to promote have been RealityChek, outside freelance articles and media appearances of mine, and work by others (including articles and posts and other material) that I believe merit attention. If that’s my crime, I’m guilty as charged. But what could possibly be wrong with any of the above objectives?
Of course I’m glad that all worked out for the best, and that Twitter evidently judged my transgressions mild enough to warrant quick reinstatement. But contrary to my speculation yesterday, it wasn’t an entirely innocent mistake, or accident on the platform’s part. And it should be clear that if Twitter’s stated rules and parameters caught me, they’re way to broad and vague, and need serious rethinking.