Twitter is getting the wrong kind of attention this week for its decision to ban a number of Russian parody accounts
before the global internet shamed the company into restoring them. The @DarthPutinKGB account, which before it was deleted had more than 50,000 followers, was struck down mercilessly by the Twitter ban hammer on Tuesday. The account deletion came alongside a flurry of Twitter bans on several such accounts, including one making fun of Russian Ambassador to the UK Alexander Yakovenko -- and @SovietSergey, an account poking fun at Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Twitter's move was quickly derided on the social networking platform and Internet at large, with users offering up their greatest hits from the temporarily-deceased parody account under the #NoGulagForDarthPutinKGB hashtag. Even Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves took some time out to highlight the stupidity of Twitter's decision:
Twitter's move comes as Putin himself has increasingly relied on Russian propaganda
to defend the country's aggressively homophobic laws and its recent not-so-subtle invasion of the Ukraine. Many of these employed trolls remain happily Tweeting -- as it's hard to differentiate them from the din of ordinary internet racism, homophobia, political infighting and stupidity, which is obviously quite by design. It's very likely that's Putin's professional internet trolls and bots played more than a small role in inundating Twitter with requests to have the accounts banned.
But Twitter's response to media inquiries was initially notably sterile, the company only directing users to Twitter's two primary conditions for parody accounts
"Bio: The bio should indicate that the user is not affiliated with the account subject by stating a word such as "parody," "fake," "fan," or "commentary," and be done so in a way that would be understood by the intended audience.
Account name: The name should not be the exact name of the account subject without some other distinguishing word, such as "not," "fake," or "fan," and be done so in a way that would be understood by the intended audience."
An archived copy of the account
indicates it did use the word parody in the byline, just apparently not clearly enough for the parody police at Twitter's support department:
So the ban was somewhat consistent with Twitter's policies in that @DarthPutinKGB didn't scream parody in giant, neon letters loud enough for the dimmest to understand. But that Doesn't make Twitter's decisions or its rules any less ridiculous -- something Twitter higher ups obviously agreed with given the reversal on the decision less than a day later. It also makes you wonder about the arbitrary nature of Twitter's parody rules and how easily they can be abused, given Twitter's selective enforcement of them -- depending on whether or not the Internet at large gets annoyed enough.
The constant, obvious jokes -- and the fact the account only had 57,000 followers (compared to the 3.2 million followers of the Kremlin's official Twitter account
) should have naturally clued most people in to the fact the account doesn't actually belong to Putin. Though reversed, Twitter's move was a senseless attempt at protecting humorless idiots from themselves, made all the more ironic by the fact the only people "offended" by the account -- were likely professional Russian propagandists and bots flooding Twitter's support systems in an attempt to stifle free speech.