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My Twitter account has been locked again

February 24, 2019

By Jeff Johnson (Developer of StopTheMadness and Underpass)

My Twitter account has been locked again. I don't even know what happened this time. It just seemed to happen randomly.
Your account has been locked.

If Twitter wants to keep users from leaving the service, this is not a good retention strategy. While I've been locked out of Twitter twice, I know of several bot accounts that have operated with impunity for years despite having been reported for rules violations multiple times. This whole situation is a complete joke. At the moment, however, I am not amused.

I don't understand how Twitter's bot fighting strategy is even effective. Ultimately there are humans running the bot accounts, so if an account gets locked out, the account owner can give Twitter a throwaway phone number and be back in business. If it were that easy to eliminate bots, Twitter could eliminate them all in one fell swoop. But a phone number means nothing.

Twitter's algorithms are not accurate enough to justify punitive action. Too many innocent users get locked out too often. In my opinion, if Twitter's algorithms identify botlike behavior, that should simply trigger an internal investigation by a Twitter employee, without warning the account holder. If further investigation shows that the account is a bot, then the account should be suspended with no possibility of automatic unlocking. The account should only be unlocked if a personal written appeal by the account holder explains how the account was legitimate. On the other hand, if the investigation shows the account is not a bot, then no action is taken, and no harm is done to the account holder. The false positive result can then be used to improve the algorithms.

Locking out innocent users is the worst possible result and should never happen. Twitter, first do no harm!

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