Twitter has repeatedly suspended an account critical of the AffordableCare Act.
The account @mycancellation was just getting started when Twitter suspended it, two times, before reinstating the account late Saturday night. I do not know the circumstances leading up to it or whether there was foul play on Twitter's end. Having worked with their API for years and seeing the amazing impact Tweeting has had on the world, I'd like to believe it isn't the case. I have not managed to find any articles where Twitter commented.
But I think there's a larger lesson here, regardless of why Twitter may have suspended the account, the public reaction is one of "Twitter Censorship," and I just wanted to say it once and for all:
SOCIAL MEDIA CENSORSHIP ALWAYS BACKFIRES.
Moving it away from the newstory for a second, think about it in your own business. If a customer comes into your store and starts complaining, does someone put a gag over their mouth? I've seen it so many times, people deleting an unfriendly blog comment, or quietly removing a Facebook comment from their page. Actually, the one thing you can't delete is someone else's Tweet, unless you're actually Twitter.
And here's another reason why it backfires. When the account was suspended (again, we don't know the circumstances of the suspension, all we know is the public perception was "censorship") it had 1000 followers; it now has over 8000 followers and the number continues to grow. Shortly after the suspension, Heather Higgens, CEO of the Independent Women's Voice posted this:
"Twitter cancelled the @mycancellation account shortly after it was launch, and... they've done it again! Since we haven't abused any of Twitter's (seemingly quite subjective) standards, either someone at Twitter objects to the real cost of these "liked insurance I wanted to keep" cancellations being given a human face. Or there is an organized campaign by Obamacare-reality-deniers to spam Twitter with false claims of abuse. Either way, keep those photos coming!"
And herein lies the problem of censorship or perceived censorship... it has the opposite of the desired outcome. We live in a world where there is no shortage of ways to get your message out there; social media has a zillion tentatcles and everytime one is cut off 10 more grow. Whether Twitter did or didn't let political motives fuel this suspension is less the point (and again, I would like to believe that it isn't censorship, but just an unfortunately coincidence), but let this be a lesson to all of us -- when it comes to social, you can't hide it, you can't sweep it under a rug, you have to deal with it. It reminds me of a show me and other sci-fi nerds used to enjoy... the X-files:
"Kill Mulder, we take the risk of turning one man's quest into a crusade."