A few years back some extreme conservatives calling themselves the Twitter Gulag Defense Network (#TGDN) developed a powerful strategy for disrupting progressive activists on Twitter, one that has since been copied by others. The tactic combined sock puppets, trolling progressives, baiting them and then mass reporting the bait takers for abusive tweets. This triggered Twitter's suspension algorithm and the progressive tweeter got suspended. Since then, Twitter has been extremely ineffective at responding to this ploy, all too often punishing the victim instead of the perpetrator.
The process goes like this: a handful of operatives use several sock puppet Twitter accounts (fly-by-night alter ego accounts) to attack a targeted progressive tweeter. The sock puppets make heated, abusive, personal attacks on the target and often the friends of the target, too. The targeted Twitter user ultimately gets frustrated and responds in kind, with angry words telling the attackers to shove off. When the counter-attack occurs, the attackers in unison report the victim to Twitter's abuse report system. Because so many reports come in at the same time, the victim's account is automatically suspended.
Meanwhile, the attackers either delete their abusive tweets that initiated the exchange or delete the account altogether. And since the victim can no longer access their own suspended account, their angry reply tweets remain on record for Twitter staff to see as they try to resolve the victim's appeal case.
This leaves the victim without any evidence that they were the victim and an account that they cannot access that looks like they were the perpetrator. And this is where Twitter essentially rules against the victim. This is also where Twitter fails miserably to police the real trolls.
I have had many victims of this tactics come to me for help. I have succeeded a couple of times reaching out to my contacts at Twitter to restore the victims accounts and have had a couple of the troll accounts suspended in the process. But the trolls are getting faster at cleaning up their evidence trail and successes at getting justice are rarer these days.
The problem is that Twitter does not appear to be keeping up with the tactics as they evolve. As best as I can figure it out, Twitter is reviewing undeleted tweets and active accounts to assess the victims' appeals. But they should be reviewing deleted tweets from the accounts that the victims identified as initiating the attacks to make its judgments.
Another thing Twitter could do to thwart this disruptive troll tactic is to adjust its suspension algorithm. If, within a designated period of time after abuse reports are filed by against another tweeter, the accounts filing the abuse reports either delete tweets from before the report filing or the accounts filing the reports are deleted altogether, Twitter should automatically flag the suspended account for deeper review and help the victims of these attacks restore their accounts.
The bottom line is that Twitter's automated systems are being gamed by political dirty tricksters and Twitter is not keeping up with their tactics. There are some simple fixes to the algorithm and the appeals process that could fix this problem. It is time that Twitter implemented them.