Twitter: Death threats get a pass, but users who question that decision will be suspended

Twitter blocks Douglas Ernst

FINAL UPDATE: Twitter lifted my suspension after one month. To learn more about how it all unfolded, you can read more about it here.

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo said earlier this year he was “ashamed” and “embarrassed” at how the company deals with bullying. Apparently they haven’t made much progress, because these days Twitter allows death threats to slide. Worse, if you’ve been the target of a death threat and you question how on earth the user responsible can get away with it, then Twitter Support will ban you. I know from first-hand experience.

Twitter unrealI wrote a story for work on March 31st on Iranian aircraft that buzzed a U.S. Navy helicopter in the Persian Gulf. I often have incredibly shady people follow me or tweet strange things in response to anything I write on the Middle East, but that story actually generated a death threat.

Twitter threatTwitter’s policy on threats of violence seem pretty straight forward to me: “You may not publish or post direct, specific threats of violence.”

Perhaps my logic is lacking on this one, but I’ve always been under the impression that something like “We will find you and kill you — death to America,” is a direct threat of violence. If you agree with me, then you too are wrong! Twitter Support “could not determine” if such tweets constitute a violation of its terms of service.

Twitter RulesHere is the email that Twitter Support sent me on Monday, April 6, 2015:

Twitter noticeKind of frustrating, isn’t it? To Twitter Support, my account must be suspended for publicly bringing attention to the fact that a guy making death threats is currently allowed to do so with impunity.

Twitter suspend appealQuestion for Twitter CEO Dick Costolo: If you’re “ashamed” at how Twitter deals with online bullying, then what emotions do you feel now that your support staff are suspending the accounts of people who are the target of death threats?

If Twitter is going to be suspending accounts, then maybe it should start internally with employees who are unsure if threatening to kill someone is a violation of the company’s terms of service.

Update: It is now May 4 and my suspension began on April 6. I have put in four appeals — all ignored by Twitter. The social media manager at my place of employment sent three emails to Twitter’s press account, and all of those were ignored. A coworker of mine had a contact at Twitter who helped her with a story — Nu Wexler — but when my employer’s social media manager reached out to him the silent treatment continued. This is the weirdest situation on social media I have ever encountered. Thank you to everyone who has been sharing this story on my behalf.

Press Inquiry

Twitter AppealRelated: WND has reported on my story. Give it a read if you get a chance.