Yesterday my Twitter account @SimplyDan was suspended for my reply to a U.S. Senator. From the outside, you’d never know I was suspended. You can can see my timeline and all of my posts before the ban. They don’t give outsiders any indication that I can no longer post or reply.
Here's the tweet I replied to:
That tweet has been liked by 80K folks, retweeted by over 16K.
My reply is no longer visible.
Below is my reply. I can’t use Twitter again unless I click the “Remove” button:
That was 1 of 2 tweets that apparently violated their Terms of Service. I can't see the other tweet unless I remove the first one. I'm pretty sure the other tweet is one that misspelled the hashtag #learntocode as #leantocode. Apparently that's banned because they knew what I was thinking. TBH, if they have a policy to suspend folks for a day who misspell a hashtag, I could get behind this.
My account is suspended for 12 hours. The 12 hours start when I remove the tweets they don’t like. Unless I bow to them, I’m suspended forever.
I'm not removing the tweets.
It's a sad state when the platform owner is okay with Senators pushing a false narrative, but not okay for someone to reply with a joke after it's clear the lynching was a hoax.
I’m not deleting my account just yet. I used twitter for several years while in government as an acquisition professional experimenting with using several platforms to share and refine ideas. To maintain the transparency I valued while in government, I want the account to be easily accessible. Yes, I know, it's all archived, but that's a real pain.
While I was using Twitter as a senior military officer, I was conscious that my words never run afoul of Article 88 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice:
Any commissioned officer who uses contemptuous words against the President, the Vice President, Congress, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of a military department, the Secretary of Transportation, or the Governor or legislature of any State, Territory, Commonwealth, or possession in which he is on duty or present shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.
After taking off the uniform, I've been free to speak openly on Twitter. When elected officials lie, I point it out. When they do things that I think harm the nation, I call them on it. Does it make a difference to them? Probably not. They've made up their minds and facts don't matter. We'll fix it at the ballot box.
Can I live without Twitter? Yes. Those who know me won't be surprised I'm going to start with an experiment: I'm not going to use @AgileOutcomes for the next month. Even if the ban on @SimplyDan is lifted, I'm not going to use it for a month either. If I find that I don't miss it, I'll decide what to do from there: I may delete the account entirely, or delete everything except a single post explaining why I've chosen to no longer participate on the platform.
If I choose to use Twitter in the future, I’ll need to do something about the fact that I’m participating in a platform that censors people who use words they don’t like in a reply to a Senator who is pushing a false narrative to achieve a political end. I don’t know how I’m ever going to feel right about using it unless Twitter changes its policies. And that is never going to happen.
So goodbye Twitter for now, and probably forever.
Update Feb 20:
I had appealed Twitter’s decision as soon as I got suspended. I received the reply this morning:
We’re writing to let you know that your account features will remain limited for the allotted time due to violations of the Twitter Rules, specifically our rules against abusive behavior.
To ensure that people feel safe expressing diverse opinions and beliefs on our platform, we do not tolerate behavior that crosses the line into abuse. This includes behavior that harasses, intimidates, or uses fear to silence another person's voice.
Please note that continued abusive behavior may lead to the suspension of your account. To avoid having your account suspended, please only post content that abides by the Twitter Rules: https://help.twitter.com/rules-and-policies/twitter-rules#abusive-behavior.
When they say “limited for the allotted time,” they mean “12 hours after you delete the tweets Twitter doesn't like.” So it’s really a permanent ban unless I’m willing to submit to their censorship.
I’m not going to submit.
Instead, I’ll let this be Exhibit A that Twitter should be treated as a publisher, not a platform. What difference does that make? Under Section 230 the Communications Decency Act it makes a world of difference.
No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider
That shields Twitter from a host a laws, most importantly libel laws.
Good luck figuring out a new business model, Jack.
And as icing on the cake, Twitter is suppressing a post I made this morning from @AgileOutcomes to the @FCC that included the hashtag #learntocode. It appears on my timeline, but is not among the search results if one searched by the hashtag. I would not have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes.
Here’s the tweet that was suppressed from the search results within twitter for #learntocode