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.