Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Twitter Suspends Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Parody Account for 'Spammy Behavior,' Which Seems Dubious

Conservatives say they are subject to a double standard.

|

Twitter has banned a parody account that made fun of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–NY), as well as the account's creator and operator, Michael Morrison.

Parody accounts are permitted on Twitter as long as they are clearly identified as such. This account, @AOCPress, obeyed that rule, and its termination has prompted conservatives to accuse the platform of hypocrisy. They have a point.

The official reason for removing the accounts was "spammy behavior."

"While you may use Twitter pseudonymously or as a parody, commentary, or fan account, you may not use misleading account information in order to engage in spammy, abusive, or disruptive behavior, including attempts to manipulate the conversations on Twitter," according to Twitter's official rules.

A person familiar with the situation told Reason that several accounts appeared to be pushing the same information in a coordinated matter and that this violates the "spammy behavior" policy.

Looking very closely at Twitter's policy, the platform does prohibit "posting duplicate or very similar content across multiple accounts" and "creating duplicate or very similar accounts; or creating fake accounts, impressions or account interactions (such as followers, Retweets, likes, etc.)."

If I am understanding these rules correctly, they mean that it is okay to have a fake account or a parody account, but if a user tweets similar content on their real account and their fake account, this crosses some sort of line.

Since both Morrison's Twitter feed and @AOCPress's Twitter feed have been vaporized, I can't tell if there was significant overlap between the two. But it seems somewhat dubious to apply the rules in a manner that punishes clearly-defined parody content. And if the problem was Morrison's feed, why is @AOCPress gone as well?

As I always point out when I write about these issues, Twitter is a private entity and may ban users in accordance with whatever principles they can think up. But the company should make a better effort to communicate what kinds of behavior are forbidden and then apply those rules fairly.

Uneven enforcement (like this) increases the perception that the company is targeting conservatives, and emboldens Republican legislators to call for regulating Big Tech. We should all oppose these regulations on First Amendment grounds, but it's hard to keep conservatives on board so long as Twitter applies its rules to the letter against the conservative-operated @AOCPress, while completely failing to, say, address an attempted doxing by a Democratic lawmaker.

 

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

66 responses to “Twitter Suspends Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Parody Account for 'Spammy Behavior,' Which Seems Dubious

  1. >>>and its termination has prompted conservatives to accuse the platform of hypocrisy. They have a point.

    it will always be met w/”who dis?” beat children at their game by playing their game. get 100 AOC parody accounts banned. make them work at their banning.

    1. Or you can just kick them in the nuts by stripping them of their 230 exemption.

      If they are curating their content, they are not common carriers, the argument they made back in the 1990s to get their exemption from the responsibilities of publishers, and on which they built their fortunes and now monopolies.

      Stop the farce of thinking these are private companies. They are no more private than companies that get licenses to distribute electricity. When social media violate _their_ terms of service — namely section 230 of the Communications Decency Act — then their (government granted) privileges should be suspended.

      Simple as that.

      1. Exactly. “First Amendment” protestations are a red herring. This is about particular enterprises benefiting from inappropriate government protection. Actual libertarians recognize that there is a serious problem.

        1. >>>Actual libertarians recognize that there is a serious problem.

          i dunno man serious problems aren’t in short order. i don’t use social media so i don’t care about this one. Nunes and Zuckerberg both suck here.

          1. ” i don’t use social media so i don’t care about this one.”

            Well, I guess that settles it then.

          2. i dunno man serious problems aren’t in short order. i don’t use social media so i don’t care about this one. Nunes and Zuckerberg both suck here.

            You do realize, don’t you, that this site is a form of ‘social media’, right?

            The clue is the interaction.

      2. There is another option, albeit it one that would be more onerous on those who have been wronged. It can be pursued at the same time as Congress messes around with, and ultimately fails at, dealing with the exemption issues.

        The users who are being unfairly targeted should sue for fraud. The company posted a set of rules and terms. If the user agreed to these terms, the company would provide them access to a service as described by its outward image via commercials, public statements, etc. The user has every right to expect THAT product or service to be that which is made available to them in exchange for their agreement to the TOS. The company outlined a resolution process for if the end user violated the TOS… a termination of the account. However, the end user did not agree to simply “terminate the providers position of service provider” upon a failing to uphold their end of the bargain. The customer was “sold” (led to believe they were receiving) product A but was given product B. Fraud.

        1. If it could be demonstrated that they never had any intention of abiding by their own agreements that would be fraud.

      3. thank you for the insightful and clear observation. I am tired of hearing the “private companies” arguments. Especially when their size /control of the market and government protection makes it impossible for competition to flourish. Time to make put the hurt on these clowns.

  2. When do people switch to some non-retarded Twitter alternative?

    What law of the universe assures Twitter perpetual market dominance?

    1. I believe it was P.T.Barnum who said “No one has ever gone broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”
      (if it wasn’t him, it could, and should, have been)

      The issue is, reading section 230, they should not ban anything. To only to be a true conduit of information, is to change nothing. These idiot politicians expect that somehow a brainless computer, knowing nothing but ones and zeros, can somehow accurately ferret out “hate” or “evil” or “wrongthink” when those terms are only knowable in a context of personal prejudice.
      The boss Twits think conservatives are the villain. I would say AOC herself is the villain. See, every single plank in the democratic party platform drips hate, as far as my personal preferences are concerned. But I don’t try to stop ‘those people’ from saying what they believe.

      1. H.L. Mencken

  3. But the company should make a better effort to communicate what kinds of behavior are forbidden and then apply those rules fairly.

    No. Absolutely not. Be ban happy. Silence people at whim. Do whatever they fucking want.

    You make it sound like they should be making corporate policy based on hurt feelings of politicians. That’s just gross. Fuck that. They should stand right up to them and say “we’re going to ban whoever we want and Fuck You 1st Amendment”.

    1. I suspect a close reading of their terms of service would confirm your statement.

    2. That’s fine but then they are taking responsibility for the content on their site, which means they need to be held responsible for content on that site, including incitement and libel.

      That is the whole point of this article. I think the internet hugely benefits from platforms that allow us all to speak freely. But for that to be practicable, those platforms cannot be held accountable for the content people freely post there (instead those individuals need to be held accountable for their own content).

      The question at this point is to what extent Twitter, et al are beginning to curate the content of their platform. NY Times doesn’t enjoy these protections against libel- they can’t say “Hey sue the writer for libel, not us” because they curate the content of their site.

      The point the article is making is that the more it seems like Twitter is curating content, rather than enforcing a code of conduct that is applied to everyone, the more likely they are to get that protection stripped. And that is a valid point to make.

    3. They are free to ban whomever they want if they change their terms of service to do so. They have not you half wit

      1. The word is halfwit.

  4. Does a private company have the right to terminate access to its platform where there is no express, unambiguous contractual reservation to do so?

    In a free society, where a private company terminates access to its platform without an express, unambiguous contractual right to do so, is the remedy of no termination for any party, under any circumstances, aside from failure to pay, a reasonable remedy?

    1. “Does a private company have the right to terminate access to its platform where there is no express, unambiguous contractual reservation to do so?”
      Yes.

      1. Whither contractual rights?

        Are not contractual rights included in the panoply of property rights?

        To wit, multinational conglomerate A, in order to secure the services of B, agrees to waive its no firearms on premises policy for B in a written contract. A does not expressly reserve the right to change its mind without obtaining the consent of B.

        Upon what basis can A claim that it has the right to change its mind about the firearms policy, short of terminating its contractual relationship with B?

        A’s claim would be subject to B’s property right.

      2. Not so. Can a landlord simply terminate the rights of a tenant without a violation of their agreement? Or another, closer example. Can I change the license agreement for consumers who have previously utilized my material? No, you get grandfathered in. Twigrer agreed to curate and host voices for free in agreement to their terms of service. Arbitrarily violating this contract is a civil offense, hence why they should be liable under civil tort. If a consumer created an account that generated positive income and curated the ad revenue for Twitter Ilin accordance, theybshould not be banned for something not in violation of said agreement.

        You’re simply wrong here.

    2. Why would there be a remedy for something you have no right to?

      1. The contract.

    3. I think this is more than the contract between the banned person and the company. This is about the right of platforms like twitter to be free from the consequences of people posting on their platform.

      As I noted above, if Twitter is not a free speech platform where everybody has their say, then why do they get protections from libel or incitement or kiddy porn or whatever else? They are no longer a platform, they are a publisher.

      So the recourse isn’t between the customer and the company, it is between the government who has declared them immune from liability for content, and the company who has contractual terms (the law) to uphold to continue that liability.

    4. There’s no contract here. None of the legal elements of a contract are present. There’s not even a service agreement, in legal terms.

      Twitter is offering you a free service, if you agree to abide by their terms of service, which are of course structured in a way to provide all rights to Twitter, and which can be changed at any time.

  5. The actual AOC verified account is the parody. Nobody can be that obtuse unless it is on purpose.

  6. OBL’s in twitter?

  7. So now we all know how to game the system. Duplicate the content of accounts you don’t like, then report them.

  8. …its termination has prompted conservatives to accuse the platform of hypocrisy. They have a point.

    At one time such complainers it seems would have been derided as conservative snowflakes. What is different with this situation?

    I don’t know if there is an actual ideological bent behind this banning, but Soave is right that Twitter is not doing itself any favors with bad optics.

    1. I think their problem is that they are finally being scared by the left. Before, the left didn’t care because they liked how social media helped them. If conservatives were being bullied or banned, that was a feature not a bug.

      But now, the left is pissed off about Russian Bots and Fake News and Trump, so they are being attacked from both sides for failing to properly curate their content. Their friends and the politicians they donate to are asking uncomfortable questions. And so they are trying to come up with a strategy that will appease the left and only the left.

      1. And FWIW, this is why Nunes is complaining so loudly. Lefties have been lying, inciting and otherwise acting obnoxious on these platforms for years. But it was only when Hillary failed to get her rightful presidency that the left started to really take notice. And at that point, sites like google, twitter and facebook started making serious changes to limit the reach of right-leaning voices.

        Nunes’s stupid lawsuit is his attempt to get the conservative argument in. The left wants to hold the big tech companies accountable for spreading bad (i.e. conservative) messages. Nunes wants to hold the big tech companies accountable for trying to ban conservative messages.

        1. Lefties have been lying, inciting and otherwise acting obnoxious on these platforms for years.

          Hell, Tim Wise brags about it. Apparently he has a hotline to some of the Twitter execs, so if one of their H1B drones suspends his account for generally being a leftist dick, he goes crying to them to get the account unstuck.

          These tech companies are going to get cornholed eventually for pissing off the wrong people. It’s just a matter of time.

    2. We’re now seeing that leftists won’t be satisfied with unequal enforcement of the rules. Once the unequal treatment is established and generally accepted they will demand ever greater punishments for ever lesser infractions.

      We’re watching the slippery slope happen exactly as conservatives warned and people who called them snowflakes scoffed at.

      1. An-caps will be chanting “but it’s a private company!” right up until the SJWs storm troopers line them up against the wall to blow their brains out.

        1. This an-cap is wondering why Twitter hasn’t been considered a publisher yet, or alternatively, why Twitter hasn’t been successfully sued for breach of contract — where they provide a free platform for speech, with rules of conduct conducive for civil discourse, but refuse to apply those rules of conduct evenly.

    3. I wonder how many will post this argument without realization that there is actually a terms of service agreed to by both parties, Twitter and the user, and violation by Twitter is just as wrong as a violation by the user. Think it through buddy.

      1. This. Offer and acceptance are the foundation of any contract. To be sure there can be additional details, but to say that TOS is not a contract is absurd.

        1. Another foundation of a valid contract is consideration. Twitter is free and users have not given up anything to use it.

          1. Another foundation of a valid contract is consideration. Twitter is free and users have not given up anything to use it.

            Bullfuckingshit. Users are giving Twitter their personal data which is then sold.

  9. Reason had better wake up and smell the roses here.

    This all started because the Left lost control of the narrative. Social Media is no longer a weapon of the left. It is increasingly being used by the right to spread their message. The big companies didn’t give a shit when it was leftists getting people fired, spreading conspiracy theories on twitter, or spreading bullshit stories.

    But then Hillary lost. And she lost to Trump who knows how to use Twitter to his benefit. All the Russian bots shit aside, the real threat is that people like Trump can weaponize Social Media the same way that the left has been doing for 15 years.

    I don’t mind Reason sticking up for private companies’ rights, but they need to look at this broader trend. Because guess what: They also depend on Social Media, and the Left will come for them just as soon as they are done with Trump. Reddit has already done it on several of their boards, and as soon as Reason becomes inconvenient to the left (after all the conservatives are kicked off) they will be talking about the incitement and violence caused by Reason’s anti-tax or support of religious cake bakers.

    1. I’m quite sure Reason has already gotten the message given the rate of “Orange Man Bad” posts every week.

    2. That’s how I see it.

      Reason, just by the nature of some of its positions that run contrary to progressive orthodoxy, can easily be singled out and shut down by the punks who run Twitter.

  10. So, an AOC parody account – where good, well-researched policies are put out for public discussion?

  11. […] source told Reason that the account was suspended because multiple other accounts were reposting the material and this […]

  12. I think you’re all missing the bigger picture. Check out the eyes of that chick- she looks nuttier than squirrel turds.

  13. So were all the principled free speech defenders back in the mid-20th Century falling allover themselves to remind everyone that Hollywood was a bunch of private companies and certainly had the right to blacklist creative talent with Red associations and sympathies? ‘Cause by the 1970s they were teaching in public school that it was a crime against humanity akin to the Holocaust.

  14. “Uneven enforcement (like this) increases the perception that the company is targeting conservatives, ”

    Only because the perception is accurate. They ARE targeting conservatives, and deliberately so.

    So they might try to do something to create a comforting illusion that they’re fair, but the reality is going to remain that the company is run by left-wingers who fully intend to censor anybody to their right.

    And it’s not isolated to Twitter. Youtube and Facebook are doing it, too, and Google is manipulating search results. Banks and insurance companies are starting to cut off financial services to those on the right, NY is working on revoking the charters of right-wing organizations.

    We’re in the opening battles of a cold civil war here, where the left’s chosen weapon is using it’s dominance of various institutions to force its enemies out of the agora and into the fringes.

    And it is only going to get worse.

    1. ” and deliberately so.”

      I’m not sure this is true depending on who you are talking about. I doubt the corporate heads are deliberately targeting conservatives. But remember shortly after Gamergate Twitter empowered a group of far left activists as their “Safety Council”. Like most apolitical people the leaders don’t understand who they invited in and accept the activist narratives at face value. Certainly those activists are intentionally targeting conservatives, that’s why they latched on to the Gamergate controversy in the first place. But the business side is acting as normals often do when influenced by propagandists. They treat criticism of leftists as serious and extreme while ignoring similar actions by leftists as politics.

    2. And yet no conservatives bitch when companies refuse to hire/sell to LGBT people. Either you’re for the rights of private companies or you aren’t. Please make up your mind.

  15. The great thing about a free and open society is that it gives us humans the opportunity to both succeed and fail miserably. So far we’re failing the test, social media-wise. Why can’t we have nice things? Because we’re imperfect, some of us more than others.

  16. The complaints I’ve seen is that Twitter will ban something but don’t follow their rules.

    Example – Banned – The candidate then outlines her past accomplishments in Tennessee and Washington. “I am 100 percent pro-life,” Blackburn states. “I fought Planned Parenthood and we stopped the sale of baby body parts, thank God.”

    Or this example-
    “This includes the case of Sarah Jeong. After she was hired as an editorial writer for The New York Times, it was discovered that over the years she had posted dozens of messages expressing hatred and contempt of whites. When conservative activist Candace Owens copied some of Jeong’s tweets and replaced the word “white” with “Jewish,” she was suspended from the platform.”

    Twitter is a company that’s fine if they one to be on one team. They shouldn’t get government exemptions though

    *I’m old at 48 and do not twitter.”

  17. With the amount of porn on twitter it seems a bit silly to ban an AOC parody account.

  18. […] source told Reason that the account was suspended because multiple other accounts were reposting the material and this […]

  19. I don’t care about Twitter. If it disappeared entirely tomorrow, I doubt the world would be negatively impacted.

  20. To all those who say that Twitter should be free to ban people at their whim: perhaps they are right, but so long as Twitter claims to be politically neutral, they need to do two things to confirm that they really are:

    First, they need to be a *lot* more transparent as to why they block, shadowban (this is particularly pernicious, because the user might not even be aware that a ban has occurred), and outright ban particular individuals. They need to cite particular tweets as a violation of their services.

    Second, they need to apply the standard across the board. It seems that, beyond a bit of token left-side banning, the ban-hammer hits one side significantly more than the other.

    If they don’t want to be a neutral platform, then they should make that clear in their Terms of Service — and they should make it clear by calling out specific tweets or patterns of tweets that justifies the claim that Terms of Service has been violated.

    1. If you are a libertarian then you have no choice but to accept twitter can ban whoever that they want to ban. That is the right of any private company. Anything else is overregulation, and you know it. You are free to use Gab and other alternatives.

      1. Only agree if the overregulation that says they are exempt from libel claims is removed. They are no longer a pass-through. They are curating content.

      2. I’m perfectly fine with Twitter and Facebook curating their content. However, this should expose them to being sued for violating their terms of service — nowhere do they say in their terms of service that you must hold a certain political opinion when you use their platform, and so long as you aren’t expressing your opinion in nasty ways, you should be free to do so.

        I’m also perfectly fine with users suing Twitter and Facebook for refusing to remove libel and slander. If they want to be a publisher — and curating *opinions* puts them over the edge into that category — then they should take responsibility for what their users post.

        Does Twitter and Facebook want to be a neutral platform where people can freely exchange ideas? If so, they need to stop their behavior. Otherwise, they should make it clear that they are *not* a platform, but a publisher — and accept the consequences of *that* decision, too!

  21. No need to freak out my fellow conspiracy experts. These bans are automatic based on number of complaints. If the person “being charged” appeals it he’ll get his accounts back. Twitter is too big for humans to look at every account so they leave it to the appeals process to get people reinstated, he’ll be back up in a day or two if he wasn’t spamming. Don’t worry old foggeys thinks are under control.

  22. Reason could be defending women’s rights to birth control, not refereeing another ordure-flinging in a platform for… um… people who have outgrown thinking. I personally hope Cortex manages to get every nazi conservative banned from all moronic threads AND have electric power cut off in districts that elect force-initiating fascists. Then, if she manages to help the Dems ram through an ERA we won’t have to listen to any more Republican Comstock Law Amendment proposals to coerce women and doctors. Both sides are into aggressing at gunpoint, so let them have at it while the LP puts its own platform in order and seeks ballot access.

  23. emboldens

    Ding ding!

  24. Ultimately this could be seen as election interference since the vast majority of the people being banned support Trump or are dissenting voices of the Dems.
    It could also be seen as Twitter donating to the Democrats with in-kind payment.

  25. Most political content, and even memes are “duplicate content”. Of course, you’ll never see Twitter start banning accounts for spamming “No human is illegal” relentlessly, despite how unoriginal or manipulative the content may be.

    1. I thought the whole point of Twitter was to allow everybody to spam everybody.

  26. AOC’s latest great idea, this time teamed with Bernie Sanders, is to cap credit card interest rates at 15 percent. Even though they average over 17 percent right now. Apparently they don’t understand what “unsecured debt” means, which might explain why they’ve helped run the federal deficit to 22 trillion and counting.

    And they want to allow/mandate the Post Office to offer banking services to the “unbanked”. As if the lines aren’t slow enough already.

Please to post comments