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Twitter ‘error’ leads to 24-hour freeze on New York Times’ account

Photo via Wilson Rivera/Flickr (CC-BY)

The account was mistakenly blocked over ‘hate speech.’

In its attempt to crack down on hate speech, Twitter mistakenly blocked the New York Times’ international account for about 24 hours this weekend. The social media platform later explained freezing the verified account, which has nearly 2 million followers, was done in error.

The @nytimesworld account was locked after promoting an article about Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s apology to indigenous people in the providence of Newfoundland. “Left out of an apology a decade ago, native people in Newfoundland and Labrador get an apology from Justin Trudeau,” the tweet read. The article covered Trudeau’s public apology to a group who were forced to leave their families to attend boarding school, where they were subjected to abuse.

Twitter said the New York Times violated its rule against hateful conduct, regardless of the fact that the tweet was about an apology over such conduct. According to the Twitter rules, “You may not promote violence against, threaten, or harass other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease.”

Twitter released a statement shortly after reinstating the account, explaining the one-day ban was an error: “After reviewing the account, it appears that one of our agents made an error. We have flagged this issue so that similar mistakes are not made going forward.”

Meanwhile, the New York Times received backlash over a different article this weekend—a profile of a white nationalist and Nazi sympathizer in Ohio. Critics took to social media to accuse the newspaper of “normalizing” white supremacy groups. NYT‘s tweets about that story were not banned from Twitter.

This isn’t the first time Twitter has wrongly blocked an account, either. Earlier this month, a rogue employee shut down President Donald Trump’s account for 11 minutes. The popular social site also faced strong criticism for temporarily limited the account of actress Rose McGowan after she spoke out about decades-long sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey acknowledged the social network wasn’t being transparent enough with its actions and promised to make changes. Twitter has since published a “safety calendar” showing all the features it will release to protect people from harassment. It also halted its verification process and announced a new set of guidelines that allow it to “remove verification at any time without notice.”

But if Twitter is to fix its problems, it will need to not only focus on adding new policies but on also ensuring they’re correctly enforced.

Phillip Tracy

Phillip Tracy

Phillip Tracy is a former technology staff writer at the Daily Dot. He's an expert on smartphones, social media trends, and gadgets. He previously reported on IoT and telecom for RCR Wireless News and contributed to NewBay Media magazine. He now writes for Laptop magazine.