I was pootling about last week when a thought popped into my head and I decided to tweet it. I’m not pretending it was profound or hilarious, but it was no worse than much of the other stuff already parping around in the Twitter soup. I pressed the tweet button, but nothing happened. Then I saw a notice at the top of my timeline saying, ‘account suspended.’
I was astonished. I assumed it was a mistake. I turned my phone off and on again. Yes, I am very tech savvy and I know this is the answer to 99 per cent of gizmo malfunctions, the other one per cent being fixable if you jam a paperclip in the back of the device (that was the tip given to me by a router manufacturer and it works like a charm). I turned the phone back on and still no Twitter. I didn’t want to ram a paperclip into my shiny iPhone 6 so I went to the website and, sure enough, in the help section there was tons of stuff on account suspension.
I should point out that I had begun the morning by reading in my newspaper about a female MP who had had rape threats, death threats and a bizarre threat by one troll to fill sensitive areas of her body with molten metal, all via Twitter. There have been plenty of other cases of high profile women attacked and abused on Twitter – the wonderful historian, Mary Beard, turned the tables on one of her trolls and helped him to find work, but other women, Bake Off presenter Sue Perkins, campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez, Suzanne Moore and many more have opted to leave the platform entirely rather than face daily barrages of horrific abuse.
So there I was, contrasting the awful ordeals that women peeping over the parapet have endured, from trolls who seemingly have licence to abuse for as long as they want and never get blocked or have their accounts suspended, and little old me, a mild-mannered blogger, minding my own business in my tiny, cosy corner of the internet.
I looked up the Twitter rules. They are pretty strict on things like spamming, selling counterfeit goods, pushing businesses down people’s throats, running multiple accounts – all that hard-nosed stuff. Needless to say, I don’t do any of it. I was confused. I’m not a counterfeiting spammer, still less an abusive troll, but my account had been suspended, all of a sudden, with no warning. I set about appealling. I missed Twitter, mainly because I use it a lot on public transport, to catch up with news, to laugh at silly stuff (yes, I am addicted to @YouHadOneJob), to chat with other bloggers and Twitterers and, of course, to look at lots of pictures of cats.
My first attempt to get de-blocked probably failed because I was really quite upset and surprised. The system is that you have to reply to what seems like an automated message, giving the essence of your appeal. Having got absolutely nowhere for several days, I realised that it was no good being even the least bit snarky. Twitter has all the power here. Like an annoying customs official at an international border, the person on the end of the Twitter email gets to say whether you are in or out. And it is a person, not a machine, though the email looks entirely computer-generated. They don’t have to justify that decision to you, either, or even explain exactly why your account was suspended in the first place.
I’m back on Twitter now, and happily chortling at @VeryBritishProblems and the rest of my favourites, though I’m slightly wondering how long it will last.
So, if your Twitter account ever gets suspended, here’s what I recommend you do:
- Reply promptly to all Twitter emails, being extra super dooper polite, even if you are sad and cross that your source of inspirational quotes/funny clips of people falling over has just been cruelly cut off.
- Stress in your appeal email that you have read all the Twitter rules and Twitter terms and conditions and say why you are appealing against suspension.
- Try not to bombard Twitter with lots of appeals. You may have to be patient (which doesn’t come easily to twitterers) while the powers that be deliberate somewhere nice and sunny in California.
- If you find that nothing much is happening when you follow the links that Twitter gives you on the website or in its email, try this additional Twitter appeal site. I think it was my appeal from this site that finally got my account unblocked.
- When they unblock your account, say thank you nicely. I got a lovely email from my appeal handler saying he appreciated my politeness.
- Don’t expect long explanations from Twitter about the whys and wherefores of your account suspension. They won’t give you any because they are very busy publishing the thoughts of Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber and they don’t have to (you read the terms and conditions, remember?).
- This does make it hard to avoid making the mistakes that presumably led to the suspension in the first place. But at least you know how to get unsuspended now 🙂
- I hope they don’t suspend me again for writing this ;(