Mass Twitter bans in South Africa with “influencer” accounts suspended

A large number of Twitter users in South Africa have complained that their accounts have been suspended.

The volume of people complaining about suspensions was so high on Saturday, 13 February 2021, that the word “suspended” was trending on Twitter in South Africa.

These suspensions drew comparisons to the banning of Donald Trump following the riot at the U.S. Capitol building on 6 January.

The suspensions also come in the context of Twitter facing a freedom of speech conundrum in India amidst a protest by farmers over three new laws that were passed by the Indian Parliament.

Twitter initially complied with directives from the Indian government to suspend the accounts of over 500 people, including some members of the media.

However, the company backtracked on the decision following a social media backlash, resulting in the Indian government criticising Twitter for not showing the same concern over violent protests in India as it did over the attack on the U.S. Capitol building.

Violating Twitter terms of service

While the large number of account suspensions in South Africa raised questions over whether they are related to the political bannings in the U.S. and India, it appears as though it was mainly “influencer” accounts who were targeted.

People who were banned took to Twitter to announce that they had been suspended and asked people to follow them on their “backup accounts”, rather than campaign to have their primary accounts reinstated.

This wave of Twitter bans was therefore likely as a result of terms of service violations relating to how these influencer accounts conducted themselves.

There was some speculation on Twitter that people who publicly offered to promote products or services, such as by using the phrase “DM for promo” in their bio, were banned.

However, Twitter does not prohibit influencers from promoting things on the platform.

Twitter’s policies do strictly prohibit what it terms “platform manipulation” and spam.

Amongst other things, this policy states:

  • You can’t artificially amplify or disrupt conversations through the use of multiple accounts or by coordinating with others to violate the Twitter Rules.
  • You can’t artificially inflate your own or others’ followers or engagement.
  • “Follow churn” – following and then unfollowing large numbers of accounts in an effort to inflate one’s own follower count./
  • Indiscriminate following – following and/or unfollowing a large number of unrelated accounts in a short time period, particularly by automated means.
  • Duplicating another account’s followers, particularly using automation.

MyBroadband contacted Twitter for comment regarding the account suspensions, but the company did not respond by the time of publication.

Speculation on Twitter over mass bans of influencer accounts

Interview on Newzroom Afrika regarding mass Twitter bans in South Africa

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Mass Twitter bans in South Africa with “influencer” accounts suspended