Rose McGowan was silenced after tweeting about her alleged abuser and his former company.
The “Charmed” actress — who’s been vocal on Twitter following reports that movie producer Harvey Weinstein raped, sexually assaulted or harassed numerous women — had her account temporarily suspended Wednesday over a so-called “Twitter Rules” violation.
Twitter, in a series of tweets, said the suspension came because one of McGowan’s posts “included a private phone number, which violates our terms of service.”
McGowan was urged to delete the tweet in question so her account could be restored, and the missive was no longer on her page Thursday.
“When will nuclear war violate your terms of service?” McGowan fired back in her return to Twitter.
Women who have accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment and assault
The social media platform acted differently when another public figure — President Trump — also violated Twitter’s terms of service by tweeting thinly veiled threats at North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un.
Twitter’s guidelines forbid tweets that include “threats of violence,” but the platform defended Trump’s September tweet as too newsworthy to delete.
Kate Klonick, a doctoral candidate at Yale Law School who studies law and technology, said the comparison between Trump and McGowan speaks to an ongoing problem in the Twittersphere and across other platforms.
Tweets belonging to President Donald Trump have sparked petitions aimed at having him removed from Twitter.
(Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)
“There’s a big question around them having one set of rules for people they deem to be newsworthy or public figures — Donald Trump could say things that actually incite nuclear war, I don’t know what could be more threatening than that — and then there’s Rose McGowan,” Klonick said. “It’s unclear at this point how they’re drawing the line.”
Scores of social media users and celebrities slammed Twitter, blasting the company for what they already dubbed an unfair account suspension.
“You allow Twitter freedom to our president but you silence a woman speaking out about sex harassment?” Jamie Lee Curtis wrote.
“Wow, @Twitter, seriously? THIS is the account you suspend but not Trump who threatened to wipe out another country? Suspend me too, please,” director Paul Feig wrote.
Social media platforms have struggled with such policy enforcement “since they started drafting the rules for user content,” Klonick said.
“These are really hard choices and I think they’ve been affecting them for years now,” she said on companies deciding to punish certain users for controversial posts. “Now, because of public clamor, they’re being forced to make a hardline policy.”
James Grimmelmann, a law professor who studies social networks at Cornell University, noted Twitter has “complete discretion and free reign to suspend any content or account.”
Three women have accused Harvey Weinstein of rape while countless others are coming forward with their own stories of abuse and sexual harassment.
(Richard Shotwell/Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)
On whether McGowan’s tweets were newsworthy, he said: “Twitter can always be accused of hypocrisy and incompetence, but that doesn’t take away their legal right” to punish users as they see fit.
Grimmelmann said accounts are typically flagged based on algorithms and complaints by other users. He described the process of suspending accounts as “complicated and not entirely transparent.”
“They’re looking to do this with as little human review as possible, and they’re doing it around the world in different languages and cultures with little context, and they’re doing it on a large scale,” he said, noting through that lens, errors are easy to come by.
“Some mistakes and some disagreements are inevitable,” he said. “The really lean process that Twitter relies on though, guarantees those mistakes.”