Twitter suspended South Africa
(Getty Images)
  • South African Twitter users are reporting a surge in suspensions, particularly affecting accounts which contain “DM for promo” in their bio lines.
  • This points to Twitter increasing its efforts to crack down on accounts which violate the recently updated platform manipulation and spam policy.
  • Multiple accounts, follow-for-follow chains and Tweets saturated with trending, but unrelated, hashtags have entered Twitter’s crosshairs.
  • For more articles, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

South African Twitter users are reporting sudden account suspensions, with social media influencers particularly hard hit by the recent crackdown. The trend emerged on Saturday and has been linked to accounts which contain references to direct messaging (DM) for promos, use trending hashtags on unrelated posts and promote “follow chains”.

Twitter’s updated platform manipulation and spam policy is hitting South African users who aim to monetise their personal accounts through circumventing official business profiles and paid-for advertising.

While The Twitter Rules deal extensively with issues of harassment, hate speech, threats of violence, terrorism and impersonation as reasonable grounds for suspension, commercially-motivated manipulation of the platform is becoming more “disruptive to people’s experience” of social media.

Twitter defines platform manipulation as using a profile to “engage in bulk, aggressive, or deceptive activity”.

This includes spamming existing and potential followers with the intention of driving traffic to other accounts, websites, products, services, or initiatives. This extends to coordinating multiple accounts to artificially influence conversations, drive “follow chains” and manipulate trending hashtags.

A common theme which has emerged during the recent bout of South African suspensions is the targeting of accounts which promote businesses and offer services like endorsing a certain product or brand.

A test conducted by intrigued Twitter users included adding “DM for promo” in their bio lines, which resulted in the accounts being summarily suspended. Importantly, however, some profiles without the “DM for promo” line were also suspended, although users admit that these accounts used certain tricks to drive up follower numbers.

Like almost all social media platforms, a large share of Twitter’s revenue comes from advertising. Users and companies pay to promote tweets, accounts, or trends. Promoting a product, brand or service without entering into a paid partnership with Twitter is a common way to monetise accounts for free but often leads to violating Twitter’s terms and conditions.

Twitter requires that all organic, non-promoted Tweets, which advertise a service or product, include a clear disclosure “to indicate the commercial nature of your content”. Additionally, Twitter lists three main violations as part of its platform manipulation and spam policy.

Fake accounts used to amplify or disrupt conversations

Twitter does not take kindly to fake accounts, unless used under a pseudonym as a parody, commentary, or fan profile. Using fake or multiple accounts to spam, amplify and disrupt conversations is one way to get suspended from the platform. Twitter looks for profiles which use stock or stolen profile photos and bios.

The creation of multiple accounts which overlap and interact with one another to “inflate or manipulate the prominence of specific Tweets or accounts” is also considered a violation of Twitter’s rules. Coordinating multiple accounts to drive certain hashtags, Retweets, Likes and mentions can result in suspension.

Selling and buying followers

Selling or buying profiles, Retweets, Likes, mentions and Twitter Poll votes are listed as serious violations. This includes using third-party apps which claim to increase followers or engagements.

Particularly pertinent to the recent swell of suspensions in South Africa is a violation called “reciprocal inflation”. Follow trains or chains – whereby accounts promise a follow exchange –and “Retweet for Retweet” behaviour is classified as a violation of Twitter’s platform manipulation and spam policy.

Spam messages, follow-churns and abusing Twitter features

The misuse of Twitter product features includes rules on Tweets and direct messages, following, engagements, hashtags and URLS. Posting and deleting identical Tweets and direct messages can lead to an account being suspended. So can sending high-volume unsolicited replies, mentions, or Direct Messages.

Follow-churning – defined as “following and then unfollowing large numbers of accounts in an effort to inflate one’s own follower count” – is regarded as a violation. Similarly, following and unfollowing a large number of unrelated accounts in a short time period, which may be accomplished by automated, third-party apps, can result in the account’s suspension.

Using a popular hashtag in a Tweet to drive traffic or attention to unrelated accounts, websites, products, services, or initiatives is against the rules as is using too many unrelated hashtags in consecutive Tweets.

Posting misleading links to websites, with either false or no context, can also lead to a suspension.

What to do if your account has been suspended

Depending on the veracity of the infringement, Twitter may either lock your account for a limited period of time or permanently suspend the account. If the account is locked with a warning, any subsequent infringement will result in permanent suspension.

“If we believe you may be in violation of our fake accounts policy, we may require you provide government-issued identification, such as a driver’s license or passport, in order to reinstate your account,” notes Twitter’s manipulation and spam policy.

For account holders who believe that their profiles have been locked or permanently suspended in error, Twitter does offer an appeal process. The online appeal form requests that the account holder describe the problem and substantiate why the account may have been suspended erroneously. Twitter may then review the lock-out or suspension and reinstate the account if it is found to be operating within the bounds of the platform's terms and conditions. 

(Compiled by Luke Daniel)

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