“This account will tweet what the President tweets,” Twitter account SuspendThePres posted on May 29. “Let’s see if it gets suspended for violating twitters [terms of service].”
Approximately 68 hours later, SuspendThePres was suspended for violating Twitter’s rules against glorifying violence.
This account will tweet what the President tweets. Let’s see if it gets suspended for violating twitters TOS. Follow along with this social experiment. Report any tweets that violate the rules. Thank you.
— Will they suspend me? (@SuspendThePres) May 30, 2020
SuspendThePres began directly copying and reposting U.S. president Donald Trump’s tweets on May 29. Run by a user who also tweets as BizzareLazar, the experiment was prompted by Trump’s recent executive order calling for social media companies’ protections to be reconsidered. Trump issued the order after Twitter applied a fact-check label to two of his tweets.
“I wanted to see for myself if he was indeed violating [Twitter’s terms of service],” said SuspendThePres, speaking to Mashable via DM. They declined to give their real name, given current events and the nature of the experiment, but stated they are a U.S. citizen.
“Figured what better way to test out the hypothesis than to see if they suspended me for the exact same language.”
The tweet that triggered SuspendThePres’ suspension was an exact copy of Trump’s now infamous “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” tweet from May 28, which threatened violence against citizens protesting police brutality. It was the first tweet SuspendThePres copied.
“These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen,” said the offending tweet, in words copied directly from Trump. “Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!”
Trump’s original tweet is still up, albeit hidden behind a warning, and he remains active on Twitter. In contrast, SuspendThePres’ account was suspended for posting the same statement, rendering them unable to tweet, retweet, follow other accounts, or like any posts.
“Apparently Twitter does in fact believe the tweet in question ‘glorifies violence,'” said SuspendThePres. “Their words not mine.”
In an email shared by BizzareLazar, Twitter told SuspendThePres their suspension would be lifted 12 hours after they removed the offending post. SuspendThePres has since done so and regained full functionality of their account, immediately resuming their copying of Trump’s tweets.
Experiment Update – Account just now coming off a 12 hour suspension. Took roughly 68 hours for Twitter to suspend me. The violating tweet has been deleted. Twitters reasoning for the violation? Glorifying violence. Experiment will continue. DMs will remain open. Thank you. https://t.co/fuxJFMERgP
— Will they suspend me? (@SuspendThePres) June 2, 2020
Twitter has repeatedly come under fire for its inconsistent policies surrounding abusive and harmful rhetoric on its platform. Though it recently began flagging and hiding some of Trump’s tweets that violate its terms of service, as well as one by Rep. Matt Gaetz, the company has continually stopped short of removing them or suspending his account.
Instead, Twitter has taken the stance that “it may be in the public’s interest” for Trump’s tweets to remain up, regardless of how incendiary or harmful they might be.
“I believe we as a free society which is more and more dependent on social media to gather our information are responsible for holding our elected officials accountable for the content they put out there,” SuspendThePres told Mashable. “Social media platforms themselves have the same responsibilities however they can be hamstrung by certain limitations.”
“In a world leaders case, Twitter makes the argument that their content is important to be able be viewed regardless of its content to further national interest in the conversation. While I don’t disagree with that statement I feel we should also know if that content would otherwise violate a platforms [terms of service].”
SuspendThePress told Mashable they assume Twitter is aware of their experiment, as multiple other users have tagged official Twitter accounts in replies. However, while they consider it a useful exercise, they don’t think it will have a significant impact on how the social media platform operates.
“Change is important and if the national conversation can dictate the need for it then I’d be happy to see it,” said SuspendThePres. “I’m always hoping for change towards the positive.
“I feel Twitter as a platform has a ways to go but they will get there. A platform with billions of interactions daily isn’t something easily controlled much less moderated.”
For now, SuspendThePres’ goal is simply to continue their experiment indefinitely, with the hope it will eventually span multiple administrations.
“No matter what happens in November, regardless of who is our president I feel this type of social experiment can help people gain at least a little bit of insight,” they said. “Here’s hoping Twitter doesn’t shut it down permanently.”