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Twitter's opaque thinking fails everyone

From Engadget - October 13, 2017

The recent aftermath of the Harvey Weinstein revelations saw a number of actors speak out about their experiences with the powerful producer. Rose McGowan has accused the producer of an attack, and is a vocal critic of the wider culture of sexual harassment and abuse in Hollywood. Using Twitter as a platform, she has spoken to, and about, others in Hollywood who enable such abuse.

On October 12th, Twitter suspended McGowan's account, forcing her to post the news of her suspension on Instagram. The automated message she received explained little -- just that her account violated Twitter's conduct policy, but nothing specific that explained the 12-hour suspension. During that period, the only access she had to the platform was to delete the offending tweet.

Twitter has a policy of not explaining the rationale for its suspensions, presumably out of fear that it will create an unintended precedent. But, half a day after the suspension, the company revealed that it suspended the account because McGowan had publicly posted a private phone number. That is a direct violation of the site's privacy policy (described as "The Twitter Rules"), which includes a blanket ban on publicly sharing personal information.

It's not clear if Twitter gained McGowan's consent before going public, but it was clearly forced to say something. The company had rebuffed all attempts to clarify its position, despite Engadget and other publications asking for comment on the reasoning behind the move. This lack of transparency led to the company being attacked on all sides for its opaque processes, with many users saying that double standards are at work. After all, the president can threaten nuclear war without censure, but Rose McGowan tweets something and it's blocked with unnatural swiftness.

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