Zimbabwe’s official Ministry of Information Twitter account got suspended at the end of March and without the Ministry of Information speaking on it it’s been pretty difficult to know what exactly is the reason behind that suspension.
Why was the account suspended?
Twitter accounts can be suspended on the following grounds;
- Spam – If the account repeatedly tweets out identical content or something outrightly “fake”, the account risks suspension;
- Account security at risk – if Twitter suspects the account has been hacked they might suspend it until they can secure it and return it to its rightful owner;
- Abusive Tweets or behaviour – if it has been reported to Twitter as violating our Rules surrounding abuse;
- Violence – threatening violence against an individual or a group of people could result in a suspension;
- Terrorism – promotion of terrorism is a suspension worthy offence
- Child sexual exploitation;
- Abuse/harassment – You may not engage in the targeted harassment of someone, or incite other people to do so;
- Suicide or self-harm – encouraging either will result in suspension.
The clearest indicator we have is that a significant number of people might have reported the account as abusive which triggered Twitter’s algorithms and resulted in a suspension despite the fact that in actuality the Ministry of Information’s account wasn’t abusive.
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What can the government do?
The best course of action would be to appeal the suspension but it appears the Ministry of Information might have abandoned that path entirely as they are now tweeting under a new account since the 31st of March.
It’s possible that the appeal process, if any was made, was unsuccessful because social media companies have less moderators working right now due to the Coronavirus. That might have resulted in a slower than usual appeal process and the government decided to make another account since the masses need communicating to…
Is Twitter right?
Without a clear understanding of why the account was banned its hard to know for a fact whether Twitter was within their rights to make such a move.
More importantly, however, is the fact that Twitter can remove a government account that contains hundreds (if not thousands) of tweets containing government position, declarations and notices on a number of issues affecting citizens of a country.
Removing an official government account when the government can just create another one as they’ve done now seems counterproductive.
Inversely if the account was reported en masse as we suspect, Twitter algorithms or moderators might have taken that as a sign that the account is impersonating the government (since it wasn’t verified) and felt the safe thing to do was to suspend the account.