This past week, World’s Richest Man Elon Musk announced his bid to take over Twitter. He indicated he intends to take the company private to increase free speech and expose its algorithms that determine what content is seen in feeds.
Also in the same week, Twitter out-of-the blue announced in a pop-up that it was limiting my actions for three days because I ran afoul of its rules.
Are these actions related? I doubt it, but my resulting experience has me wondering if Elon might be on to something in that Twitter is too controlling and arbitrary.
Here’s how my Twitter limitation went down. Early Monday morning, I was reviewing the list of people who had followed me overnight. I followed back one, no issue. I followed back the next, and that’s when the tiny pop-up appeared telling me my actions were being limited for the next three days for possible rules violations. Those weren’t the exact words, but it definitely made it seem my violation was not fully determined.
I barely finished reading it when it disappeared. I went to my messages, because, surely, Twitter would give me a full explanation for what horrendous crime I’d committed. Right? Nope, no message.
I checked my numbers: Followers higher than those I follow. That’s what someone told me I needed to maintain to prevent being “limited.” I’m careful to not tweet anything controversial because I’m using Twitter to promote my writing, so I’m not looking to put anyone off. Consequently, I knew content wasn’t the problem. I told myself maybe it was a glitch and that’s why the pop-up disappeared so quickly.
I followed back the same person, again. The action went through without issue. I followed back a third person, and BOOM I’m told I cannot follow anyone at this time. “At all?” I wondered. I start searching the rules to find out what land mine I’ve inadvertently detonated.
And that is when I became enlightened as to the nefarious side of Twitter from which Elon Musk is trying to liberate us.
Twitter uses undefined parameters to declare account activity suspicious. I’m not exactly sure what they’re trying to prevent or why, although it seems they do want to thwart bot accounts. I would think one surefire way to do that would be to suspend accounts that out and out label themselves as bots, but that’s just me. At least three such accounts have followed me (along with three guys named Keanu Reeves, five or six admirals, generals and diplomats).
They reference multiple places mysterious ratios that trigger them to take limiting actions. Seems there’s no set ratio, it changes as your account changes. It’s kinda like being in a relationship with a non-violent but very controlling narcissist who constantly changes the rules while telling you it’s you who’s inconsistent.
I recognized that, but, still, I thought I’d try to find out exactly what I’d done to be “Limited.” So, I sent a note through the Contact Us feature. In my note, I asked them to tell me what rule I had broken. I received in response a form email signed “Twitter” that said they’d received my appeal. I quickly replied that I wasn’t appealing – I just wanted to know what I’d done wrong.
A few hours later I received what I’m sure was a form email but was signed by “Ollie.” After saying he was sorry to hear I was limited, he pointed me to the rules I’d already researched to no avail So, I sent Ollie a response stating that the rules documentation did not help me, and asking again for him to just tell me outright what my crime was.
I didn’t really expect him to respond, but he did. This time he apologized for the inconvenience, and said the limitation would eventually end. Then he told me the message I’d received when the limitation first went into effect told me what I’d done. My reply:
Ollie, the message I received did NOT tell me what I did wrong. YOU have not told me what I did wrong. Do you not know? To punish someone without explanation is arbitrary and capricious. Is that what Twitter is?
Again, I didn’t expect him to reply, but again he did:
For most accounts, this is a temporary outcome, and if no further negative behavior occurs, the account will eventually be restored to full access.
Please let us know if you need help with anything else! Be sure to follow us @TwitterSupport for all the latest updates on Twitter.
My response was not quite the same tone:
Ollie, Ollie, Ollie, you’re not hearing me. I’m not protesting the action. I’m asking for an explanation of WHY, so that I don’t engage in the unacceptable behavior again. I’m a rule follower. But, I have no idea what rule I violated. Is the answer that Twitter doesn’t know either? Is this some artificial intelligence gone wrong scenario? Should we alert the authorities that Twitter’s algorithms are plotting world domination?
I was almost giddy awaiting Ollie’s reply to that. Disappointingly, with his response, I realized that Ollie is a bot:
Thank you for your patience! We have more information for you.
You may encounter a message that states, “You are unable to follow more people at this time.” We may lock an account if appears to be compromised or if it is in violation of the Twitter Rules or Terms of Service, including due to aggressive follow behavior. Accounts in a locked state are limited in actions they can perform, including following. Read more about locked and limited accounts.
Be sure to follow us @TwitterSupport for all the latest updates on Twitter.
I didn’t bother responding again. A few hours later my penalty expired. Well, at least the penalty I knew about expired. My tweets don’t appear to be getting the views they were previously. And that brings me back to Elon Musk. Maybe he really will make the feed algorithms more transparent and more user-controlled. And, maybe Elon would bring real people to respond to Twitter Support inquiries. Or, maybe Elon plans to use Twitter’s AI algorithms to achieve his own world domination. You pays your money, you takes your chances.
In other news, here’s my redbud tree.
Book Review: Bandun Gate by Miriam Van Scott
Have you ever been warned to eschew Ouija boards, seances and Tarot cards because you don’t want to attract the attention of dark beings? In her book, Bandun Gate, author Miriam Van Scott imagines the terrifying impacts of attracting that unwanted attention.
It starts with her fascination with a haunting structure called Bandun Gate. She’s warned by a member of the Gullah community to stay away, but she ignores the warning and takes her daughter Abby to see it. Inadvertently during that visit, Abby invites a haint (a malevolent spirit) to come with her. From there the terror begins.
If you are looking for a simple ghost story, do not read Bandun Gate! This is horror on a deeper level, involving occult subjects.
If you’re looking for occult horror, this is the book for you! It is expertly written; the descriptions within it are vivid and stick with you – both the descriptions of Charleston and the surrounding low country and horror aspects of the tale. I could not read it at night for fear of nightmares! Miriam Van Scott is a master at her craft!
I didn’t have time to craft a short story for this week’s blog. Instead, I offer several flash fiction pieces from the daily Twitter writer’s prompt I follow.
Remember the Night
She’d always remember that night -the summer night she last saw him, last felt his arms around her. The air was warm, the frogs were serenading the bright moon, and his lips were soft on hers. Murmured promises, and then he was gone, never to return.
On Raven’s Wings
Sophia said, “Bad news flies on raven’s wings, while good news floats with butterflies.” Joni pondered her words and then said, “Incoming raven: Your butterfly arrived too late to secure this wedding venue.”
That Story You Told
The child said to his PaPa,”I was thinkin’ ‘bout that story you told ‘bout walkin’ to school. Dad said he can’t hop from post to post, & my teacher said it’d take all day to walk back & forth 10 miles. I think maybe your pants are gonna catch on fire.”
The Here and Now
“Ha,” the being scoffed. “You puny humans, living for the here and now when a million other universes exist along the time continuum!” The cop replied, “Yeah, yeah, move it along, buddy-you can’t camp here-not now & not later.”
When I Fall Down
“My secret to life?” She said, “When I fall down, and boy have I, I pull myself up-maybe with help, but I don’t just lie there waiting for someone else to lift me. We all fall. The secret is to not live your life like a medical alert commercial.”
Float Back to Earth
The child gently blew and watched the cloud of fluff rise on the breeze and then float back to earth. The old man snapped, “I’ll thank you not to help the dandelions spread!” Innocently, the child replied, “Maybe you should look for their beauty.”