Editor’s note: originally, I was going to write a post about some upcoming scheduling changes here on the website tonight; ironically enough, in an effort to address my recently falling page visits. As it turns out however, while attempting to figure out precisely why the number of visitors to ninaillingworth.com had suddenly dropped by more than 50% – I managed to uncover a far more serious issue. This post is going to be short, sweet and to the point because I am simply too angry and too afraid for my livelihood to beat around the bush here folks.
Additionally, please see “Important Update” below.
Important Update: as of the morning of August 30th, 2016, my name is now again appearing in public Twitter searches; with and without hashtags. This means that whatever functionality Twitter had removed from my account (whether on purpose, or by accident) has been restored and for all intents and purposes, things are back to normal.
First and foremost I would like to thank all of the people who contacted Twitter Support on my behalf; as well as those of you who donated/helped share my work in other places so the shadowbanning was less effective. As a group, you guys are without a question the reason I have my normal account back this morning; no amount of bitching from me would have done that and I was introduced to a bunch of new readers to boot. I realize that I am very fortunate to have such amazing people speaking on my behalf and I cannot thank you enough for helping me.
With that having been said; all of this did happen – my account was secretly “turned off” from public view for several days; my guess is roughly six days but it may way have been a little more or possibly a very little bit less. I was not notified that this had happened or given any reason why it might be happening by Twitter and frankly, if I hadn’t noticed my cratering numbers – I may have remained “shadowbanned” indefinitely.
The only clue I ever had as to what might be happening is that in Twitter’s documentation it mentions that your account might be removed from public searches as part of an official investigation; so theoretically, if Twitter was investigating my account over the course of the days I was “shadowbanned” – then it would mean someone reported my account as abusing the ToS in some way.
If that is the case (and I have a few ideas who it might have been, if so) then I for one would suggest that Twitter’s investigation system is horribly flawed and immediately requires a massive overhaul re: both effectiveness and transparency. It shouldn’t take five days to figure out I’m less offensive than Donald Trump (who still has an account) and I shouldn’t automatically lose functionality because some bored, dipshit, tech-weenie decided to flag my account for rough treatment.
In light of all this, I have decided to leave this post up as a historical record of the incident. Perhaps in the future, when Twitter finally does improve it’s abuse reporting and general discipline policies it will be a comic reminder of the way things were; until then however it’s an important record for cautionary purposes.
Still, all’s well that ends well I suppose – thank you all very much for your assistance in my hour of need.
“When the truth is replaced by silence, the silence is a lie.” – Yevgeny Yevtushenko
Have you ever had a feeling, just a tingle, a “spider sense” if you will that powerful forces in the universe were out to get your worthless, heathen soul – for crimes against “The Status Quo” and those who gleefully carry out their bidding?
Well, I’ve now found myself embroiled in just such a terrifying situation as a result of running and promoting this website; the really fucked up part of this story however is that I’m actually not just being paranoid – social media mega-company Twitter has actually shadowbanned my account and as a result, seriously threatened my livelihood in a completely literal sense.
This is a little complicated, but I promise there are pictures involved so just bear with me for a moment:
Okay, so this is a screenshot taken from my Twitter account while I’m logged in during the wee hours of the morning on August 29th, 2016 – there are three of these screenshots in total and we’ll talk a little bit about what each of them mean in between photos.
This top panel is a search for my handle plus the hashtag #ClintonCash and as you can see from the pretty green text and the little icons at the top, I’m logged in to my Twitter account through a normal internet browser.
Hashtags are important on Twitter because they allow people to search for specific tweets in the massive sea of posts logged on the network every second of every day; as you can see, I myself use them to advertise my articles to other users and the strategy has been largely successful in growing viewership on my website – until now.
This is another screenshot from my Twitter account, taken at roughly the same time as the previous image; you can tell by the date stamps and the fact that I have between 9 & 10 notifications in each of them from an account with over 2,100 followers – more on this in a minute.
Please also note that there are wide spreads between the date tags in both of these posts; I specifically chose these pictures to demonstrate that while I’m logging into my account, Twitter happily shows me months worth of tweets I’ve made with the appropriate hashtag.
Again, I’m quite familiar with how all of this works because I’ve been using this method to advertise new writing on my blog since the beginning of April and in doing so, expanded my number of Twitter followers from under 500 to over 2,000 at the same time. You could say that Twitter has been quite good to ninaillingworth.com and seemingly, there are a significant number of users on the platform who enjoy the content I produce both here on this website and with my Twitter account – hardly a teaming horde mind you, but I somehow doubt the average Twitter account adds more than 1,500 users in four months either.
Finally, we have the third screenshot panel from the Twitter account I’ve clearly logged into and two more searches featuring a hashtag I’ve clearly used and my Twitter handle; in this case #Haiti and #Yemen – two nations often ignored by the US media despite frequently bearing the brunt of imperialist policies enforced in some way by the US government. The failure to rebuild Haiti after the tragic 2010 earthquake and US-backed murder by Saudi Forces in Yemen are unquestionably worthwhile and serious topics of discussion on any social media platform.
Or, they would be topics worth discussing if anyone could actually see them – let’s take a look at what happens when I use a private browser to search Twitter after essentially “logging out” of my account:
As you can see clearly; all of my posts under each of these (and likely every) hashtag are completely hidden from public view. Simply put, if you aren’t following me on Twitter already and logged into your account, the service will tell you that I’ve never posted under the hashtags you’re searching – frankly, it may not even help all that much if you are following me on Twitter; several of my followers have reported being unable to search my hashtagged posts while I was writing this.
Please understand that this is almost certainly an official shadowban and not some sort of technical glitch; the reason I’m so certain is because Twitter is far and away my primary method of promoting this website. In fact, my entire motivation to actually search for the source of this problem was to identify why page views on both this website and my Twitter profile had dropped by more than 50% over their normal numbers – despite the fact that I’d already gained over 300 followers in August!
At first, I thought maybe people were just busy that weekend or perhaps I’d simply written three clunkers and nobody cared; but as the saga moved into at least it’s sixth day, I started cross referencing numbers from my website and the Twitter Analytics feature. Sure enough, none of my viewer metrics from any other social media site had changed in any significant way – but suddenly, I was attracting way, way less traffic per day on and from Twitter!
What Does it Mean & Why Would Twitter Do This?
Well for starters it means that there is a very good chance I’m going to starve to death at some point; right now donations to this website represent my only source of income and frankly, I’m not making enough to pay for other sources of advertising. I’m a small fish in a very big media pond and I rely on the Twitter account I’ve painstakingly grown to help people who are interested in the things I write about, find me.
As it stands now, if you aren’t already following me on Twitter, there is very little chance you will ever see my work or visit this website because my posts are not showing up under hashtags; you will literally be unable to find me unless you already know my handle and you won’t be able to find any post I’ve hashtagged at all. Naturally, this will have a catastrophic effect on the number of people who will see my tweets and I already have the absolutely goddamn cratering view numbers to prove it.
Presumably, you don’t need to be a math major to realize that less people seeing my work means less visits to this website which in turn means less donations to keep ninaillingworth.com up and running; of course, when you factor in that I don’t charge anything to read my work and donation money legitimately equals food – I don’t think it’s entirely unfair to say that Jack Dorsey and Twitter might literally be the death of me here.
You could of course argue that Twitter does not in any way owe me such an advertising platform and you’d be right, but by that same measure I would point out that I haven’t done anything except use the service to talk to people about things I myself am passionate about – and people don’t seem to mind, if my growing follower count is any indication. I have, to the best of my knowledge obeyed the terms and conditions of my Twitter account and by every single metric Twitter provides, I was clearly doing something right until they shadowbanned me.
Which of course brings me to my second question, why?
Is it because I write thoroughly researched and informative pieces about the US government, it’s bloodthirsty allies or the complicit mainstream media that lies to the public on it’s behalf? Was it talking about Hillary Clinton too much, or perhaps posting screenshots of publicly available tweets posted on Twitter by a vindictive pack of wannabe media harpies? Was it talking about election fraud, or being critical of the Saudi government and following other accounts who’re critical of Saudi Arabia as well?
The truth is, I simply don’t know; I was never officially notified of any action taken against my account, I wasn’t suspended from Twitter and as far as I’m aware, nobody reported me to @support to cause my account to be censored. Frankly, without my rapidly dropping page view metrics from two different sources and the fact that I rely so heavily on the service to promote my work, I might never have noticed I’d been shadowbanned at all.
While I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not always the nicest user, I don’t harass people on Twitter and most of my unpleasant interactions are brief because I’ve learned to use my block button liberally and often. My language is pretty salty, but I have yet to see a rule against that in the terms and conditions – furthermore, if assholes can use Twitter to out LGBT youth to repressive regimes; my choice of invective when speaking on my own account, can’t seriously be a real problem here. If Twitter isn’t shadowbanning a guy like Joe fucking Walsh, how the hell am I worthy of a virtual gag?
Besides, if the reason for my shadowban was abusive behavior on Twitter, they would have either locked or suspended my account and contacted me with some information as to why – I know because it happened once when someone who didn’t agree with my opinion flagged a post I’d made as spam. A suspension, a warning or a ban would be something; this is quite literally turning the primary reason I use my Twitter account off… out of spite?
How Can You Help?
Frankly, I’m really not entirely sure what can be done about this but as I’ve already explained, my financial situation pretty much stipulates that I have to actually do something here.
In the short term, I’d advise anyone who’s looking to help me out to tell @Twitter and @support that shadowbanning me is unfair, that I’m not an abusive account and request they restore full functionality to @NinaDontPlayMtg immediately. I would also be extremely thankful if you’d share this article with anyone you know or any website you visit that talks about either social media censorship or free speech rights in general because as I’ve mentioned; my “reach” is currently suffering from the oppressive hand of blatant censorship.
In the long term, I’m going to need to lessen my overall dependence on Twitter and since I’m still just as broke now as I was a few paragraphs ago; I’m going to need your help doing it gentle reader. Clearly, because my Twitter content is not searchable no matter how many of you retweet it; I desperately need my readers to share my work anyplace they possibly can outside of Twitter.
Do you have a Facebook, Instagram or Blog? Are you a member of Reddit, another internet forum or a chat group? Please, I’m begging you – post my articles in those places, literally anywhere frankly because if I can’t build up enough of a readership outside of Twitter; there is now a very real chance I’ll have to give it up completely. At this point, the fact that I’m broke is very much a minor goddamn problem when compared with Twitter’s quasi-fascist attempt to put me out of business before I’d ever really got started.
You can find tips about how to donate on the Spread The Word Page and if you are inclined to donate money because of my predicament, you can either visit the Tip Jar page here or just use the PayPal donation button at the bottom of this article.
This would normally be the point where I attempt to deftly sum up the article in a few memorable and hopefully evocative sentences but to be completely honest with you folks, I’m not really sure I’m capable; I’m at once both too angry and too scared to properly find the words. It’s not every day you face down a multi-billion dollar corporation that’s trying to choke the life out of you without even dignifying the action with a notification of some sort. I’ve spent all morning staring at the evidence in shocked disbelief while trying to figure out why a service that seems to welcome actual fucking Nazis, is trying to obliterate little old me.
I really don’t know what else to say; as a society, we’re clearly facing some ridiculously dark times if a company as big as Twitter is passively censoring a leftist, socially concious blogger with just over 2,000 followers – who’s website usually averages no more than 1,000 some odd visitors a day and has only once topped 10,000 visitors on a story.
- Nina Illingworth
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