After two years in the digital wilderness, Trigger Warning was ready to be relaunched. We had a (mostly) new staff—myself included—as well as several articles with all the playful venom that Trigger Warning is known for. Then, less than a week before the relaunch, Jack Dorsey threw a massive fucking wrench in our plans. When a robot calls you a bot on Twitter, you may find your account restricted into the abyss without a single Cthulhu toy. Woe is the deep end in which we swam to retrieve our account.
It appeared that somebody (or something!) reported Trigger Warnings’s Twitter account for being a bot, and Twitter’s AI somehow thought the report was correct and put our account into a restricted state. Nice going, robot. You might want to take a look in the mirror the next time you act on instinct.
You’d think this wouldn’t be a big deal, since our founder Rachel Haywire who runs the account could just contact Twitter and get our account restored. Yet that was far from the case. Although the Twitter employee Rachel spoke to meant well and did his best to help us out, the account was only recently restored after over a week of being restricted. Apparently, Twitter’s AI is dumb enough to take one bot report as accurate but clever enough to make it extremely difficult for employees to correct their mistakes.
The only way to get our account back—besides tracking down a live human which even with our connections, took several days—involved a code being sent to Rachel’s phone number. Yet there was one problem: she had changed her phone number since she’d registered the Trigger Warning account, and now had no means of accessing it. Despite Rachel’s email and password easily verifying her as Trigger Warning’s account holder, Twitter’s AI system would not restore her account. How does a company that is supposed to be state of the art rely on phone numbers to get an account back? They might as well rely on fax machines.
When directly contacting Twitter failed, we turned to other methods in order to put pressure on those at the top who think voices like ours are too small to be concerned with. We asked people of all political stripes to help us out, which hacktivist Beka Valentine, among others, were kind enough to do. We even got retweeted by Chelsea Manning.
These efforts were apparently successful—we still don’t know exactly how our account got unlocked—it took much longer than it should have, thanks in large part to Twitter’s Artificial Intelligence acting much more like Twitter’s Artificial Oblivion.
This shitshow raises a lot of questions.
First, how is it remotely ethical to place an AI in charge of banning accounts after only one report, especially with all the malicious attempts at banning we see on Twitter from all sides every day?
Second, why is the human part of the restoration process so ineffectual? Not only does it seem like no human oversaw the restriction of Trigger Warning’s account, but that the people we were able to reach were unable to do anything. This seems like a situation ripe for the AI to run even more amok. Then again, Twitter, like the rest of Big Tech, couldn’t care less about existential risk, so I doubt this has even crossed their minds.
Third, what happens to the millions of people who move every year, often changing their phone numbers? What happens when they don’t have the connections to the tech community that we’re fortunate enough to have? What is their recourse when their accounts get suspended or restricted like ours? What about people who don’t want to give their phone numbers to social media sites out of concern for their privacy? Will they just have to suck it up and make a new account, praying—or paying— to get their old followers back?
Going off of the third question, why would somebody be concerned about giving up their phone number? Some of it may be the nasty habit of doxxing that occurs on Twitter, where everyone who goes viral gets milkshake ducked, with certain people going way over the line. Part of it may also be due to a general distrust of Twitter, specifically their censorious attitude towards dissident voices, whether they’re right-wing, left-wing, or unapologetically centrist. It seems that just about anyone who’s not either well established or extraordinarily polite—and we certainly aren’t either of these things—has the sword of Damocles hanging over their heads.
That’s not to say that this clown show is due to Trigger Warning’s content. Jack could just be too busy trying to achieve immortality by buying a lock of Demeter’s hair from some witch-doctor in Santa Monica to realize that his reporting and restoration systems suck. Yet regardless of why Trigger Warning’s account got restricted, it should have been reinstated much earlier. In fact, it shouldn’t have been restricted at all. What began as a simple AI mistake has turned into a clusterfuck thanks to an archaic recovery process that needs to be
seriously re-examined exterminated.
Freddie Bastiat is a law student whose real name you’ll find out once Andrew Kacynski doxxes him. He’s a fan of hockey, Yoko Taro games, and restoring the Byzantine and Achaemenid Empires. You can find him on Twitter @Tht_Fat_Bastiat.