There are a lot of options besides suspension.
Twitter hasn’t always been clear about why it punishes its users — as a formal policy, the company refuses to comment about individual users, and its rules have historically been vague.
That was until recently, when Twitter rewrote its user guidelines to help people understand what will and will not get them banned. It’s part of a broader effort inside the company to combat abuse, and to make sure users know what’s allowed on the service.
As part of the same anti-abuse efforts, the company on Tuesday published new details outlining all of the different types of punishments doled out to rulebreakers. These punishments aren’t new, but a quick poll in Recode’s office confirmed that most people — even Twitter diehards — may not be aware of how many different techniques Twitter uses to try and keep people in line.
The punishments range in severity, from generally painless (Twitter will use its algorithm to show your tweet to fewer people) to the particularly painful (a lifetime ban). You can read the company’s formal list of punishments here, but we’ve also summarized them below.
Part of what makes Twitter’s enforcement strategy so inconsistent is that the company uses a number of pieces of information to determine how severe a punishment should be. One of contributing factors, as we’ve learned recently, is how newsworthy a tweet is, which requires subjective analysis. Twitter also looks at other information like who reported the tweet, and whether or not the offending user has a history of abuse or harassment on the platform.
So, what can happen to you if you are found to be violating Twitter’s rules? Here are the different punishments:
- Twitter can use its algorithm to ensure that your tweet reaches a smaller audience.
- Twitter can block you from tweeting. It might do this if you post something in violation of the rules that Twitter wants you to delete. Twitter can also block you from tweeting if you’ve sent someone a private message that violates its rules.
- Twitter can hide your tweet from users in a specific country, assuming that the content of the tweet violates local laws. Twitter says it requires a “valid and properly scoped request from an authorized entity in that country” in order to do this.
- Twitter can block you from sending another user a private message if you’ve sent messages to that user that violate company rules.
- Twitter can hide your profile if you post photos or information that violate its policies. That could include inappropriate media, like a profile picture that might contain violence, like a gruesome accident photo, or something sexual, like nudity.
- Twitter can put you in time-out — what the company calls “read-only” mode — if it thinks you are going on a bit of a rampage. This means you can’t actually post, reply to, or like anyone else’s tweets, but you can still log in and scroll through your timeline. This read-only setting could last as little as 12 hours, or as long as seven days.
- Twitter can temporarily lock you out of your account until you verify your identity — using either a phone number or email. That way you can’t be an anonymous Twitter troll. “This also helps us identify violators who are operating multiple accounts for abusive purposes and take action on such accounts,” the company wrote.
- Twitter can suspend you forever. It has done this a few times with well-known users, most notably with Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos back in mid-2016.