My Twitter account has been mistakenly locked for the 4th time. This morning, Craig Mod wrote a tweet about YouTube.
A few minutes later, I wrote a joking reply, which you can see below (and which Craig liked, by the way).
Needless to say, I was not encouraging or promoting suicide or self-harm. It was a joke about how YouTube can be both very helpful and very harmful. (I have no idea whether YouTube has videos about cutting off your leg, though I wouldn't be surprised if it did.) Twitter too can be both very helpful and very harmful. I personally use Twitter to promote my software — such as my web browser extension Tweaks for Twitter in the Mac App Store. So Twitter giveth, and Twitter taketh away. I just wish that Twitter would be smarter, because its so-called "algorithms" are totally, repeatedly stupid.
I refuse to give Twitter my phone number, because Twitter is an advertising company and would gladly sell it given the chance. They claim the phone number is only for "security", but we've seen a number of instances in the past when this trust has been violated anyway. Thus, I can't login and delete the tweet, even if I wanted to delete the tweet, which I don't (yet). At this time, I remain locked out of my account.
I've now received an email from Twitter, "An update regarding your account".
So the (high on) crack Twitter team reviewed my appeal and determined that I'm in violation of Twitter policy.
Twitter is currently holding my account hostage until I give them my phone number (and then presumably delete the "offending" tweet). Thus we are at an impasse. I appeal to the internet to publicly shame Twitter and get my account unlocked.
Despite Twitter's claim in the screenshot above that my account would be restored to full functionality in 12 hours, that did not happen. The next day, I was still getting the phone number demand every time I tried to login. A few friends noticed this blog post in my RSS feed, but it wasn't getting much traction. And I started to worry that I wouldn't get much sympathy from people who had already willing shared their phone number with Twitter. As my hope faded for some kind of deus ex machina, I reluctantly decided to share my phone number with Twitter in order to restore my account, which is important to my business. It's important to remember though what I'm giving up in privacy: see for example "Twitter admits it used two-factor phone numbers and emails for serving targeted ads", which also details other lapses by Twitter (as well as Facebook). None of these big tech companies can be trusted with our personal information.
I was also forced to "delete" my joke tweet in order to restore my account. The tweet's link now shows the message "This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules".
My Twitter account is now fully restored, with the warning that I may be permanently suspended if I happen to accidentally do something else in the future that Twitter mistakenly considers to be a violation of their rules.
If there's a lesson here, I think it's that we're all too reliant on big tech companies such as Twitter. Individually, you can take steps to own your content, like I've done here by publishing my own blog on my own domain and a publicly accessible RSS feed. Yet in the end it doesn't matter, because RSS readership is very low nowadays compared to social networks such as Twitter and Facebook. You can try to be decentralized, but if your decentralized content isn't linked on the big centralized networks, it might as well not exist. You can still be effectively censored and silenced by the big tech companies regardless of what you do. If your personal and/or professional network is on Twitter, you can lose it all in an instant, arbitrarily, for no good reason, and with no real appeal. (Remember that my "appeal" was purportedly reviewed by a human at Twitter and still rejected.) I would urge everyone to reconsider your reliance on Twitter, and reinvest in decentralized options such as blogs, RSS, and email. Collectively, we need to protect ourselves from the unchecked, undemocratic, Orwellian power of the big tech companies, before it's too late. If it's not already too late.