Twitter has permanently banned rolling news aggregator Politics For All from its platform.
The channel was suspended this weekend to mixed reaction on social media, with associated accounts including News For All and Crypto For All also taken down, along with the account of Nick Moar, its 19-year-old founder. Thankfully for second-hand furniture junkies, Furniture For All remains unscathed.
A Twitter spokesperson said the account was “suspended for violating the Twitter Rules on platform manipulation and spam” and would not be allowed to return.
A media law expert also suggested the removal of the account could be down to copyright issues, with many mainstream journalists complaining that its breaking news posts would often attract more social media shares than the posts by the outlets who actually reported the stories.
Moar, who has since landed a job at the Spectator as a social media editor, declined to comment on the deletion of Politics For All. But several high-profile names have called for it to be reinstated.
So was it the right call?
What did Politics For All do wrong?
Twitter has released a short statement on its decision to take the account down.
The social media platform said Politics For All violated its rules on platform manipulation and spam, which prohibit behaviours including:
- Posting misleading or deceptive links
- Operating multiple accounts that interact with one another in order to inflate or manipulate the prominence of those specific Tweets or accounts
On the first count, there is an argument to say the way in which stories were posted – often focussing on the more sensational, juicy aspects with little regard for context – puts the account in breach of Twitter regulations.
On the second account, there can be no doubt that it was in violation, given that Politics For All would frequently interact across accounts within its stable.
But then, who doesn’t? There are few media outlets that aren’t guilty of “inflating” their audience or “manipulating” their reach, as Mike Galsworthy points out below:
Why has Twitter acted now?
The timing of Twitter’s decision to remove Politics For All and associated accounts from its platform doesn’t seem to bear any significance, although Twitter has a lot of recent form on the matter.
Last month it suspended an account that was sharing updates about the Ghislaine Maxwell trial in New York called the @TrackerTrial which had gained more than 500,000 followers before it was taken down.
The same reason was given that it was in violation of Twitter’s rules on platform manipulation and spam.
US Republican representative Marjorie Taylor Greene has also seen her account taken down, and few people will need reminding of the removal of Donald Trump last year.
With misinformation on the rise, it could be that Twitter has taken the decision to target high profile names with significant traction rather than orchestrate a widespread, systematic cleanse.
Twitter interfering in free publications?
But was it right to do so?
Those against the move say have cited concerns over the power social media platforms now hold over news outlets, completely removing their audience at the sweep of a brush.
The same thing recently happened to Novara Media on YouTube, and even though their account was reinstated, the hastiness of the action and the convoluted appeals process highlighted, as the New York Times pointed out, the platform’s opaque and sometimes arbitrary enforcement of its rules.
Twitter suspended a news channel with a tremendous amount of engagement with a simple one-line explanation as justification for doing so.
However, as we have pointed out, there’s a strong case to say Politics For All was already in breach of its guidelines.
It’s their house, their rules, and Politics For All should have known that.
Sensationalised, exaggerated plagiarism?
A disregard for the rules could have seen them come a cropper in other regards too.
Media law expert David Banks suggested the removal of the account could have been down to copyright issues pertaining to ‘persistent abstraction’ – where an organisation repeatedly takes the content of another without permission.
Many mainstream journalists had complained that its emoji-laden breaking news posts would often attract more social media shares than the posts by the outlets who actually reported the stories.
It had also been used by anti-vaxxers to raise doubts over the pandemic and, despite claiming to be impartial, was often accused of having a clear political agenda.
The reliability of its news was frequently called into question, as was its tendency to exaggerate stories.
In the end, Politics For All showcased a shrewd ability to game Twitter’s algorithm to gain notoriety. It became an account most of us have heard of, many of us have engaged with and the majority of us have discovered news through.
But in an age of populism and misinformation, ’emoji-laden’ and sensationalised news bites probably aren’t the one.
I hate to say it, but we’re probably well shot of it.