On Sunday morning, I was up at my usual pre-dawn hour. After a Saturday of clouds and rain, when Sunday started with golden pre-dawn light, the birds got very excited and had a glorious symphony of chirruping-chitter-chatter and clear calls to each other.
I put down my teacup and slipped into the cold outside to record a soothing 13-odd seconds of it.
Social media might appreciate this lovely clip of peace and zen, I thought, and shared it to Twitter and Instagram.
Within 30 seconds, Twitter got its knickers in a supreme knot about the video, declared I'd violated their rules, and locked me out of my account for 12 hours.
For the record, here's the offending vid:
Now, I'm the mildest of the mild social media users, focusing exclusively on things that interest me like writing, creativity, nature and animals. In other words, I don't go near the creepy edges of content that might violate Twitter ToS. Being locked out was absolutely a new experience for me.
It's funny to realise the different stages of reactions I went through:
1. Dumbfounded: What? Me? Really? Why? The birdsong video?
2. Disbelief: Are you serious? Birdsong??
3. Indignation: Tell everyone. Demand sympathy and commiserations and external validations for the unfair ridiculousness of it all. (I told Instagram aaaaall about it!)
4. Doubt: Or was I actually at fault? Did I post the right thing? Did I post it wrong somehow? The video played through twice when I was trying to post it - does that mean it uploaded twice and was too big? Would that break their rules? Wouldn't they just say the vid was too big?
5. More indignation: It was birdsong, Twitter, BIRDSONG!
6. Pseudo-revenge: Write it down in a blogpost for posterity. Consider including puns about walking on eggshells, whether this crackdown is a real feather in their cap, that it's all beyond a yolk, and frankly that Twitter are bird-brains and are flocking crazy etc etc...
7. Meh: Go have a nice, Twitter-free Sunday.
8. Imp of the perverse: When I get my account back, fantasise about re-loading the vid and see what happens.
After the 12 hours, Twitter finally told me what my offence was: I'd violated their "rules against posting or sharing privately produced/distributed intimate media of someone without their consent".
There was pindrop silence while I checked my vid again, and wondered how a bot could mistake a dawn sky and silhouetted trees for anything x-rated. Twitter, I think your bot needs a rest.
For the record, I have posted many similar photos (plus at least one other vid) of dawn skies with trees drawing an uneven silhouette on the horizon. None of those got the Twitter reporting bot so hot to trot.
Maybe it was the words in my tweet: "Anyone feel like some Sunday morning birdsong? 🧡"?? Is there some unintended innuendo in my words that I'm missing? Has 'birdsong' become the new 'netflix and chill'??
Then, Twitter told me:
- I had to delete the offending tweet before I could get my account back.
- if I delete my tweet, that means I acknowledge I violated their Terms of Service.
- if I really want to, I can try and appeal. But that'll take much loooonger and I won't get my account back until I appeal.
That whole 'deleting = acknowledging I violated your ToS' bit got my back up.
I think my chances of getting Twitter to acknowledge they got this very wrong are non-existent, but I'm still curious to see what they're going to come back with. Or, maybe I should be curious about when they come back. (I can imagine they have a mandatory no-action period of 2 weeks/1 month/ 6 months, and instead just count on people's impatience/addiction for capitulating and cancelling their appeals just to get their accounts back..)
I'll see how this waiting stage game goes.
In the meantime, Twitter has taunted me with notifications I can't access - nice touch, Twitter!
I'll admit that I did think about starting another Twitter account. But it looks like you can't sign up for Twitter these days without giving them a mobile number. Which is a whole other level of not-cool 🤨
And so, for now, we wait...
Edited on 21Aug22 to add: I waited a week, googled 'Twitter appeals' and learnt the appeals can be actioned in anywhere from 24 hours to never.
So I grumpily deleted the tweet and in so doing, "acknowledged" I'd violated their ToS, got my account back, and promptly reposted my dawn-and-birdsong vid.
...And how about that? No Twitter jail this time 🙄
Edited again on 28Aug22 to also add: Turns out that, even when you delete the tweet, it doesn't always cancel the appeal. Just under two weeks since they banned me, Twitter emailed to say that "[o]ur support team has reviewed your account and it appears we have made an error. We've determined there was no violation...". They also said "[w]e sincerely apologize for any inconvenience...".
So. A two-week timeframe to reply to appeals. And an apology. Perfunctory or otherwise.
Time to sleeping birds lie.
But to return to my original intention and starting point, I do hope - if nothing else - you enjoyed the dawn light and birdsong in the vid! (Also, did you see the bat just above the tree-line, flying home to sleep?? So very awesome!)
Du fond du coeur x