Twitter has created “Twitter timeout” — or what I like to call “Twitter jail” — in which the reach of a user’s tweets is limited for a 12-hour period if that user is flagged for harassment.
The feature, first reported by BuzzFeed, began rolling out earlier this month but is just starting to cause quite the commotion in the Twitter-verse, inciting theories that the move is directly tied to tweets against President Donald Trump and the administration.
It seems Twitter is essentially locking people’s accounts for 12 hour periods if they quote or @ a verified user and swear or insult.
— Amadi (@amaditalks) February 23, 2017
The concept is a little complex, and unfortunately hard to demystify because Twitter is quite secretive on what could land you in timeout. That’s because if Twitter lets you know exactly how it works, it’s pretty easy to either guarantee yourself in timeout or never end up there again.
But here’s what we know, based on the actions of other users and conversations with a person at Twitter familiar with the changes.
What does “We’ve temporarily limited some of your account features?” mean?
Some of your account features are temporarily limited.
Conversations are core to Twitter, but if we detect behavior that may violate the Twitter Rules or inhibit other people’s ability to express themselves freely, we may temporarily limit certain account features. For example, this could mean only your followers are able see your activity on Twitter, including Tweets, likes, Retweets, etc. Limiting the reach of potentially abusive content creates a safer environment and stronger Twitter community.
A user’s tweets will only be displayed to people who follow them, which limits their reach.
That means if someone includes the handle of a user (mentions them) that they don’t follow, that user won’t be notified. If that person is retweeted by someone else, the retweets will still not be shown to those who don’t follow the account.
Can I be suspended for 12-hours by saying “Go F*ck Yourself, @realDonaldTrump?”
Depends. Just that tweet alone won’t throw you into Twitter timeout. The company relies on a lot of signals — including past behavior — to decide what action to take. If you do it once, Twitter is most likely not going to throw you in timeout.
The suspension is not done based on one tweet or certain words or a certain account you interact with.
Is this “shadowbanning”?
Shadowbanning is when you ban someone from a platform and don’t tell them about it. In the case of this update by Twitter, a user receives a message if they end up in timeout.
Do these new rules vary based on account?
It shouldn’t affect the rules. If you tweet “Go F*ck Yourself” at the president versus a random account, the same thing should happen, according to a source at Twitter..
The source did admit that the platform is moving really fast, and therefore, updates are made to the algorithm that could seemingly cause this to change.
Twitter is considering one factor — tweeting something offensive about someone without mentioning them versus mentioning them. The Twitter source likened the action to standing at a street corner and shouting (not mentioning) versus standing in someone’s living room (mentioning).
Has anything changed with using profanity on Twitter?
The changes are not meant to “clean up” Twitter. But, the source noted, there could be false positives from the changes, meaning that people might feel like they can’t say “f*ck you” as much.
Why are these changes happening now?
Abuse is Twitter’s number one priority, at least according to public statements from CEO Jack Dorsey and other executives. The company is working on introducing changes every day to address how people behave on the platform. This push comes after 10 years of rampant, often unchecked abuse on Twitter.
We’ll consider everything we heard from you. Not going to ship all of it, but will be more transparent about why and what we learned
— jack (@jack) December 30, 2016
What else is coming?
Twitter is quiet on the roadmap.
But we can expect more product updates as well as a clearer update on what’s to come and what’s already been introduced in the coming weeks, a the Twitter source said.