UPDATE: This is confusing a lot of people, so I’ve written a second post to clarify the main issues, and also written “How To Stop People From Getting Your Twitter Account Suspended.”
UPDATE: People are arguing that they’ve seen accounts suspended due to others reporting them for spam and that they believe there were no other significant factors involved. So let me mention another common factor: New accounts. The newer an account, the more easily Twitter lets it be auto-suspended.
With fairly new accounts, all bets are off. Twitter has actually made it very hard to start a new account and not get it suspended. They’re very touchy so as to catch more spammers. My advice for new accounts:
Tweet with someone you know that will respond to you. Ask them outside of Twitter if necessary to reply to your tweets. Having an established account reply to your new account makes it look “real” to Twitter. Of course, spammers know this, and they maintain credible accounts to reply to their new spam accounts to make them look real too, but an actual conversation still goes a long way toward Twitter looking favorably on your new account.
Here is the original blog post:
Twitter recently suspended the @ChrisLoesch account twice during a somewhat politicized situation, and provided some information as to why. As often happens in politicized situations, people began repeating partial information about what happened.
However, I’m not saying what happened was fair. It highlights several problems Twitter has, which I’d like to point out.
Certain Kinds of Overtweeting Practically Guarantee Suspension
First, let me be clear: “overtweeting” can cover a LOT of different situations. Just tweeting a lot does NOT get you suspended, and Chris was NOT suspended just because he tweeted a lot.
If many people are tweeting information that bothers you (for example, if it’s someone saying untrue things about you or something or someone you care about) what can you do?
If you search for everyone who is doing the tweeting, and start sending them tweets, you will very likely be suspended if you “overdo” it. It happens quite frequently, actually.
Specifically, what happens when you send a bunch of tweets to people that you aren’t in a conversation with and who you don’t follow or don’t follow you is that many of them will report you for spam or block you. Particularly if they are tweets from someone who disagrees with you, is angry with you, etc. Twitter sees your overtweeting and the “spam response” to the tweets as a signal that others consider your tweets to be spam.
(You could achieve something similar if you followed a lot of accounts and many reported you for spam. Following is equivalent to tweeting as far as being considered an interaction.)
There is basically no way for you to send a whole lot of tweets in a short time that other people don’t want to receive without it making you look like a spammer.
Why Reporting For Spam Doesn’t Get Accounts Auto-Suspended
If a lot of people are reporting an account for spam, but they have not interacted (such as by receiving tweets) with the account, Twitter’s system tends to flag the account, but will NOT auto-suspend it, JUST because of the spam reports.
Twitter learned this very, very early in setting up their system of flagging accounts, because Twitter does not want to suspend accounts because of their content, except in a very small number of specific use cases, such as an account distributing child porn. Most everything else is considered by Twitter to be free speech.
Even if you are tweeting things that Twitter does NOT consider free speech it will still NOT suspend your account in most cases without a request from a court.
So just because thousands of people can report an account for spam, Twitter will not suspend it.
But if you send a lot of tweets in a short time that the people on the receiving end respond to by blocking or reporting you for spam, Twitter often does suspend your account.
This was what happened to @ChrisLoesch on his first suspension, as breitbart.com reported by sharing Twitter’s message:
(click to enlarge Image credit: Breitbart.com)
Chris Loesch posted dozens of tweets in a short time (about 45 minutes) many to people he was upset with. A short time later, Twitter suspended his account. Exactly the kind of thing that happens all the time in situations like this.
So again, it’s not people in GENERAL marking you as spam, it’s people receiving your tweets doing so.
Is This Unfair?
I would say yes, although it’s unclear how Twitter can deal with situations that look like spam but aren’t really.
Of course, it’s nice that Twitter provides you a simple screen and explanation to get your account unsuspended. But at that point, your account is essentially on thin ice. And now, after Twitter’s algorithm has already suspended you once, it takes a lot less to suspend you a second or third (Chris was suspended three times) time. When this happens in contentious situations Twitter often says they “adjust something to try to keep it from happening again” (which they also said in this situation.)
So what’s particularly unfair is how, once your account is on “thin ice” due to an initial suspension, it’s so easy to get suspended again. However, multiple suspensions are also the situations where Twitter will reset your account and try to prevent your account from being suspended again.
I suspect they simply remove the existing “flags” and set your account for manual review if the automated system again flags you for suspension. Twitter also usually notes (as they did in this case) that “coordinated blocks could trip…automated spam systems.” They’re NOT saying that a lot of block is all it takes to cause an initial suspension, they’re saying it’s a flag. And in the case where your account was recently suspended, it can be a serious flag.
So, strangely, if you want to prevent an account from being auto-suspended, a lot of people flagging it after an initial suspension is a near-perfect way to get Twitter to look into the problem and reset your account to prevent auto-suspension. This is by design. Twitter abhors any account being impacted for its speech. Twitter really, really wants to be “hands off” and live and let live.
Similar to when certain topics don’t trend or stop trending, people predictably rush to begin tweeting conspiracy theories. In the case of a first account suspension however, it is very unlikely to be caused simply by people who have not interacted with the account reporting the account for spam.
The simplest reason that this is true is that that’s how Twitter wants it. They don’t want people who aren’t interacting with an account to be able to affect it with their judgement of it. Twitter doesn’t care how many people don’t like another account, if it’s
- not spam,
- not child porn,
- not subject to a court order
…Twitter doesn’t want to suspend it. Of course, if you strongly suspect that an account was initially suspended primarily because of other people’s actions, you will tend to read Twitter’s words of
“coordinated blocks could trip…automated spam systems” (said after @ChrisLoesch’s second suspension, and also said in conjunction with they will “adjust something to try to keep it from happening again”
as the initial suspension was caused by others reporting the account for spam. But Twitter works hard to make this IMPOSSIBLE to do, they’ve had years to perfect their system, and in this, like so many other situations, there is a much simpler, more obvious explanation (again not necessarily fair), which Twitter pointed out, and I’ll repeat here:
(click to enlarge Image credit: Breitbart.com)
The Political Situation
In my experience, I’ll get a LOT of tweets telling me I’ve been unfair, or missed the point here.
Most people won’t even read that much of what I’ve written here before taking me to task. If you did read all the way to here, and you want to criticize me, please use the hashtag #UnfairSuspension so I’ll know you’re not just reacting in knee-jerk fashion, and are actually responding to what I’ve written, and not just repeating partial information, misinformation, or pre-conceived notions.
I’m happy to hear what you have to say and interact with you about it, but only if you’re actually reading what I really did say!
UPDATE: I’ve moved this update to the end of the post instead of the beginning, because people were only reading the update and not the blog post and getting confused.
Chris tweeted me that “…what happened to my account according to TWITTER…was a ‘coordinated blocking.’ ”
He is directing people to this article, which is where I got the quotes/screenshot from in writing this post. As I point out in this post, the first suspension appears to have been because of the unfair situation regarding a particular type of overtweeting, and after an initial suspension, it’s often hard to avoid getting suspended again, at which point Twitter typically steps in if requested and resets your account to prevent further suspensions. Which is exactly what happened.
Chris, in tweeting with me, has not yet made any distinction between his initial suspension, and his later suspensions, which is what this blog post (below) is about. The quote given from Twitter is
“…coordinated blocks could trip the automated spam systems…”
…which does not specifically address which suspension is being talked about, and does not specifically address auto-suspension vs. spam flags, and does not actually mention “suspension” at all. So it’s a little difficult to interpret, but in past similar cases, this is the kind of thing Twitter says about a 2nd/3rd suspension, and not about a first suspension. And, as I said to Chris:
@ChrisLoesch I’ve updated. I don’t think Twitter’s system is “fair” but I read your tweets & their timing & it fits the “overtweeting” flag.
— TweetSmarter (@TweetSmarter) May 2, 2012
Also, I should point out that I don’t know who Chris Loesch is, and I haven’t read the details of situation he finds himself in, except to study the details of the suspension, tweet timestamps, quotes, screenshots, etc. Considering how apparently political it is, I’m also stopping myself from trying to learn more about him or his situation. I’m not interested in the political side, only the Twitter technical side.