Twitter seems to have found a new way to throttle certain users’ accounts, as one prominent conservative writer and comedian recently found himself in the crosshairs of this insidious tactic.
Stephen Kruiser, a longtime stand-up comic and contributor at conservative outlets including PJ Media and American Spectator, was an early adopter of Twitter and has spent nearly a decade building up an impressive following of over 200,000 people.
For those of us who work in the media and entertainment industries, Twitter is not just a frivolous distraction and a way to follow news trends; it’s an invaluable promotional tool. As Kruiser wrote yesterday:
While Twitter is incredibly important to my writing endeavors, it is even more critical to my stand-up work. Social media plays the role of publicist for many in the entertainment industry. That is why I’ve worked hard to build and maintain a Twitter presence. Publicity is key, and Twitter is free publicity, which makes it all the more important for entertainers. As I mentioned in the previous post, bookers almost always want to know how many Twitter followers I have.
Unfortunately for Kruiser, his ability to publicize his work on Twitter is being radically restricted right now. His account was placed on “restricted” status for several days, wherein he was able to open his account and read tweets, but unable to post anything. His account also somehow unfollowed everyone he had been following. He’s been given access to his account again, and his 200,000+ followers remain, but it still says that he himself is following zero people.
That’s problematic because many people unfollow accounts that don’t follow them back. Kruiser says he has lost about 3,000 followers since this odd restriction on his account began last week — a figure that could start to really diminish his social media reach if it continues.
Further complicating matters, this is not a situation where Kruiser can just manually follow people back. He had built a list of over 100,000 accounts he had followed over years, and Twitter only allows you to follow 1,000 new accounts each day. Even if he were willing to take the months it would require to rebuild his list of followed accounts, it was Twitter that caused this problem, and as Kruiser wrote, “Twitter should fix what they broke.”
So why did this happen to Stephen Kruiser?
Well, that’s an interesting question, and the answer is, we don’t really know.
Kruiser has made multiple attempts to solve this vexatious riddle, but has received no official communications from Twitter explaining their reasons for restricting his account, not even an auto reply message with a general description of what rule he allegedly violated.
The only real clue is an article he wrote on May 15th that criticized Twitter for being silent or frustratingly vague about the reasons they suspend or restrict accounts, making it feel impossible to comply with the rules in good faith. Kruiser jokingly tweeted the article with a comment encouraging his followers to “[r]ead it before Twitter suspends me.”
I just wrote this. Read it before Twitter suspends me: https://t.co/KwgjfMpdz9
— SFK (@stephenkruiser) May 16, 2018
When he woke up the next morning, he was locked out of his account.
As mentioned above, Kruiser has since had his access to his account restored, but the accounts he was following are still gone and he has been unable to get any communication from Twitter whatsoever about this problem:
The most frustrating aspect of all is the lack of communication. If the goal is to create a better overall experience on the site, then it would make sense to tell people who have had their accounts restricted exactly why it happened so the problem could be avoided in the future.
The fact that they don’t do so really heightens the perception that it isn’t about anything other than punitively targeting accounts that don’t fit in with the hive mind. The appearance of deliberate censorship could be gotten rid of with a bare amount of transparency and communication from Twitter. That, sadly, does not seem to be a priority.
Conservatives recognize that Twitter is a private company, and has the right to set the rules for using their service. But they have an obligation to their customers to provide a modicum of transparency about what those rules are and how they are enforced.
I reached out to Kruiser by phone on Friday to touch base about the situation. He’s frustrated but still hopeful that it will be resolved successfully.
“I’m the one guy who never complained about Twitter being a negative experience,” said Kruiser, “and now Twitter itself is making it a negative experience for me. Twitter is not just promotion for me — when it’s the weekend, I look forward to tweeting about sports or movies or whatever silly nonsense. But this isn’t fun.”
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.