Questions raised after pro-life activist Twitter accounts suspended without warning: one now restored
ONTARIO, August 21, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- A pro-life activist campaigning against Liberal leader Justin Trudeau’s abortion extremism as well as a pro-life organization on a mission to show the violent reality of abortion through large graphic billboards had their Twitter accounts “permanently suspended” weeks apart after the social media giant said they were both violating rules regarding “harassment and abuse."
Alissa Golob of Campaign Life Coalition, who helped run the “No2Trudeau Campaign,” told LifeSiteNews there was no warning when her account with about 4,000 followers was suddenly suspended last week right while she was composing a tweet.
“One minute I was tweeting and the next minute my twitter was suspended with no warning,” she said. “So in one fell swoop everything is gone with no warning.”
Golob called her suspension an “outright injustice.”
“I’ve asked Twitter how I’ve violated the rules since I read them over with a fine tooth comb and none of my tweets violated anything,” she said. “It was really frustrating. A lot of work went into that account and I had to start from scratch and there was literally nothing I could do except continue to appeal it.”
Golob said the suspension happened a few days after an abortion advocate created a pseudo account in her name and sent offending tweets to numerous people, including one politician.
“I reported this impersonation of my account multiple times, and the same day that this account was suspended, so was mine,” she said.
Golob received an email from Twitter that same day stating: “Due to your violation of our rules regarding harassment and abuse, we've permanently suspended your account. Your account won't be restored.”
The pro-life activist, who uses her account daily to spread the pro-life message appealed the decision, but only received an automated response. She created a new account so she could continue her pro-life outreach, despairing of ever again accessing her suspended account.
Then last Monday, Golob was shocked to discover that her account had been suddenly restored.
In an email to Golob, Twitter stated: Twitter takes reports of violations of Twitter very seriously. After reviewing your account, it looks like we locked it by mistake. We have unlocked your account, and we apologize for this error.”
Golob was overjoyed. “This is amazing news,” she said.
But not all stories of pro-lifers who have had Twitter permanently suspend their accounts end this way.
Last month the Canadian pro-life organization Show the Truth also had their account suspended, again for “harassment and abuse,” even though it maintains its innocence.
Isaac Longworth, social media tech for Show the Truth, believes that the July 18 suspension of @ShowTruth has more to do with Twitter censoring his group’s pro-life message than about the organization violating rules.
Show the Truth uses large-scale abortion victim photography in an attempt to convince the public about the injustice and horror of abortion. “Our strategy is to show the images of aborted children to the public in the form of large signs depicting first and second trimester abortions,” the group states on its website.
Longworth said that animal rights activist groups like PETA constantly use Twitter to put out graphic images of horribly abused animals with no problem, but if a pro-life group highlights on its account what abortion actually looks like, the account is suspended “and we are told that we are harassing people and that it's abusive.”
Twitter suspended the account just days after a successful tour in Kingston in June after which the group saw a big spike in their social media traffic. Longworth saw the timing as noteworthy.
“We got so much feedback on Facebook and Twitter, and so many people were talking about us and complaining about us, that literally a couple of days after that, they shut us down.”
While @ShowTruth can no longer be accessed, online searches show groups like ProChoicePEI complaining about the images, saying: “all the pictures do is gross people out & silence the discourse around abortion, reinforcing stigma & harming women.” Other individuals on Twitter have accused the group of distributing materials that “trigger traumatic responses.”
Twitter rules state that users “may not engage in targeted abuse or harassment.” Conduct is considered abuse or harassment if the user sends “messages to a user from multiple accounts,” “if the sole purpose of your account is to send abusive messages to others,” and if the “reported behavior is one-sided or includes threats.”
Longworth related how Twitter first suspended the organization’s account because of graphic images, but later restored it after the organization agreed to put a ‘graphic material’ warning in its posts. Then, after the successful tour in Kingston, the account was suddenly suspended again without warning, this time for “harassment and abuse.”
“Due to your violation of our rules regarding harassment and abuse, we've permanently suspended your account. Your account won't be restored,” the email from Twitter to Show the Truth stated.
“I was trying to think of what we had done that was abusive or harassing. I tried to look through the rules of Twitter which they had sent us and I could not see how we had violated any of them. And when I asked for an instance of where we had violated them, they didn't answer me back. They haven't answered my email,” Longworth said.
Twitter did not respond to LifeSiteNews’ attempt via email and Twitter to reach out for comment.
Longworth believes Twitter’s suspension of Show the Truth’s account reveals a bias against the way the organization spreads its message on abortion.
“What we’re posting, yes it is graphic — the pictures that we post are indeed graphic — but that’s our main way of activism, to show the pictures of aborted children.”
“We think it's wrong [for Twitter] to suppress our message just because [they] may not approve of it,” he said.
The group says it will not allow its message to be silenced and, like Golob, has started up a new account — @STTactivism — to continue its work.
Finding the line between curtailing violent images and outright censorship is a task that Twitter appears in the past to have had trouble establishing. Last year the social network was criticized for suspending users who shared news footage or stills of the beheading by Islamic militants of photojournalist James Foley. While Twitter said the images were too violent, users said they were sharing the photos to raise awareness about the evil actions of the Islamists.
While social media remains a powerful tool to communicate the injustice of abortion to the masses, it might be an uncertain platform for pro-lifers, who could find their accounts suspended without being given a reason why.