Ravi Singh


Social Media




By Dr. Ravi Singh @campaignguru

What happened to Twitter? Free Speech, Purging to Banning...Really?

DISCLAIMER: First, I love Twitter. I believe in Twitter. But, it's obvious that a good number ofpolicy (5x's) changes happened after @realDonalTrump was elected in 2016. Is there a correlation? I don't know? But here is my research, citations listed at the bottom.

Twitter has been around since 2006 and has changed it’s terms of services a total of fourteen (14) times (see here and five (5) time's since President Donald Trump been elected. Twitter Inc, a publicly-traded company, has since gained a lot of popularity globally as a social media platform, despite these changes. This communication platform sends messages or tweets in over 34 different languages. Twitter has over 330 million active users, and like most modern social media platforms, has gone beyond the basic communication to other crucial functions such as advertising, business, and in some cases, leadership. Just to put things in perspective, @realDonaldTrump has over 85 million followers and averages about 25 million active users on his best days on Twitter.

One thing is for sure, Twitter is not the same as it was during inception, especially in Politics. The platform has experienced tremendous growth in terms of users, revenue, influence, and organizational size. Like any organization, Twitter has policies and regulations that govern its use as a social media platform. This begs the question. How much has Twitter changed as a platform? Diving into its policy changes over the years gives an insight into Twitter then and now. It shows what Twitter stands for now as compared to a decade ago.


In fact, version 1 of their terms andservices was inspired by Flickr. Flickr is an American image hosting andvideo service. One of the oldest is still around and is popularly used to host high-resolution photos by amateur and professional photographers. Ask the question what happened? Because like many of you, the recent banning of New York Post Articles hits at the heart of the utopia of the world wide web. 


When policies, terms of services, and companies take on a dystopia act and then change their actions within 24 hours. One must begin to question. Are they the best stewards oftheir own gigantic platforms? These questions and many more go to theheart of why I was motivated to author this article. 


First Rules-2009

As of 2009, Twitter rules were significantly different and fairly slim. The platform made it clear that they would not actively censor or filter user content except in limited circumstances. The restrictions were mainly on the grounds of Impersonation, Privacy, Violence and Threats, Copyright, Unlawful Use, Serial Accounts, NameSquatting, Malware/Phishing, Spam, and Pornography. The Rules were 568 words, a number that doubled in the next update and has been increasing in the next consecutive updates.[1]

2009 – 2010

2009- Twitter Verified

Twitter introduced the verified account badge on June 11th, 2009, to deal with the cases of impersonation and fake accounts. The verification badge is a blue check mark that Twitter uses on celebrities, journalists, corporations, and politicians accounts to ascertain they are real. This occurred after the La Russa suit, where Twitter was sued for trademark infringement, violation of the right to publicity, and cybersquatting due to impersonation of Tony La Russa account.[2] Twitter provides information on verification on the verified accounts help page.



In addition to the verified function,Twitter updated its rules, banning trademark infringement. It added 353 wordson spam and abuse in the platform, an indication of the increased fakery on the platform. Jeong argues that as users increased on the platform, so did spammers and accompanying regulations to control the fakery. In the article, Jeong stated

No one cared then, and still no one cares now. Spam is annoying, after all, and something must be done. Today,the bulk of the Rules still deal with spam.”[3]


2011-2012-Free Speech Reputation

Jeong notes that 2011 and 2012 were rather quiet years for Twitter with respect to updating its rules. However, the company had to deal with Twitter mythos. Twitter UK general manager termed the company as "the free speech wing of the free speech party.”[4] Evidently, the company was then tied closely to free speech. A report by the New York Times suggested that Twitter was unique from other platforms in terms of free speech as in the figure below:


Jeong argues that Twitter maintained its free speech reputation until 2013, while other platforms such as Google and Facebook did not. Twitter was not caught up with the NSA revelation. Adrianne Jeffries of The Verge noted that Twitterwas clean as a whistle.[5] However, things changed in the summer of 2013 when Twitter introduced the ‘Report abuse’ button. It was evident that Twitter was going to start filtering content. The rules on privacy and censoring have since matched other social media platforms in the modern age. The figure below shows the function on desktop and iOS.



January 2012 

On January 26th, 2012, Twitter announced the implementation of the country withheld content policy.[6] Prior to the policy, Twitter could only block content or an account globally. Its adoption enabled the platform to block content or an account in a specific country or region in accordance with the rules and regulations or other requirements such as court orders.



The policy applies to all countries and accounts globally, as seen below




Twitter Harassment policies 2014

In August 2014, Twitter announced a change of its harassment policies after the bullying of Robin William’s daughter, Zelda Williams, after posting a grieving message of her father’s death. Williams was forced to leave Twitter and social media to grieve her father’s death privately. In response, Twitter decided to update its harassment policies and stated[7]:



Twitter Safety Policies 2015

In April 2015, Twitter overhauled its safety policies in relation to free speech and expression on the platform. This was steered by the trolling on Gamergate co-founder in Twitter and other incidents that involved public figures. The safety policy changes would ban hate speech, incitement of harassment, promotion of terrorism, and revenge porn while ensuring freedom of speech. Vijaya Gadde, Twitter General Counsel, explained the changes to safety policies as follows.[8]



Oct 2017 

Twitter announced the implementation of new user policies to improve user engagement on the platform. According to @Jack, Twitter decided to take a more aggressive stance towards Twitter rules and how they are enforced.[9] The Twitter CEO went on to poston Twitter, as shown below. Evidently, the move was in response to a 24-hour boycott by Twitter users over the suspension of an account owned by actress Rose McGowan.[10]


On October 19th, 2017, Twitter released a calendar of their safety work that aimed at making the platform a safer place for all users.[11] The image below illustrates the policy changes proposed in October 2017 to improve the users' safety on the platform.

Type image caption here (optional)



November 2017 

Twitter began enforcing the new rules it announced the last month, October 2017 to combat abuse and hateful conduct, including threats of violence and physical harm. The update was part ofthe company’s constant updates to improve the platform and user experience. Below is a tweet making it official.



December 18th, 2017 

Twitter, through@TwitterSafety announced that they would enforce updates to the Twitter Rules and media policy on Nov 17th, 2017. The move was intended to reduce hateful conduct and abusive behavior. The new rules and policies were implemented on Dec 18th, 2017 


December 21st, 2017 

Sometimes, different countries have varying regulations in relation to online content. As a result, Twitter adopted a new in-product messaging system for the country withheld content (CWC) policy announced on Dec 21st, 2017, through the @policy account.[12] It allows the platform to consent for transparency of the content that the platform was required to remove. The tweet below shows the announcement by Twitter on the platform. Twitter would onwards report on the importance of withholding content.




January 2018  

World Leaders on Twitter 

On January 5th, 2018, Twitter begins to review Tweets by leaders and acting accordingly. Twitter said they would not block any leader as it would hide crucial information and hinder debate. So, content by all leaders like presidents would remain online for everyone to see. The figure below shows a statement by @twitter on the company blog




September 5th, 2018 

Jack Dorsey Testify on Capitol Hill

While testifying at Capitol Hill, JackDorsey said that Twitter is rethinking its incentives it offers to the people. He noted that follower count does not reflect how much a user contributes and noted that, “We are not going to be able to do long term work unless we look at the incentives that our product is telling people do every single day.”[13]

Jack Dorsey, who tweeted his opening statement, also recognized missteps on Twitter’s part but said the company was taking similar steps as Facebook also present i.e. Including artificial intelligence, to help find bad content and locate bad actors, increasing transparency for ads, requiring documentation for political ad buys, and collaborating with partners like law enforcement to root out problems. 


Lawmakers acknowledged their efforts but said there was more to be done. The areas identified as needing change include: protecting users’ privacy, alerting users, so they know they are interacting with bots, and alerting users that they have interacted within authentic accounts. 


July 12th, 2018 

On July 12, 2018, at 3 p.m. ET, JackDorsey, founder of Twitter, announced that the announced Twitter purge had begun. Twitter was removing inactive accounts, particularly accounts that were not in use during the last six months. 



The purge was accompanied by the inactive account policy.  


June 2019 

Notices on tweets: Defining public interest onTwitter.  

Twitter introduced notices to protect the health of the public conversation on Twitter. Example of what is added on a tweet that violates the Twitter Rules. NOTE: Twittersays: 

“We will only consider applying this notice on Tweets from accounts that meet the following criteria. The account must: 

·        Be or represent a government/elected official, be running for public office, or be considered for a government position (i.e., next in line, awaiting confirmation, named success or to an appointed position); 

·        Have more than 100,000 followers; and 

·        Be verified.” 



August 2019 

On August 16th, 2019, Twitter announced that it would change how third-party apps requested authorization of a Twitter account. The policy update's main intention was to help users make more informed choices by making it clear to the user the control an app has. 



Oct 30, 2019 

Political adverts banned on Twitter

On Oct 30th, 2019, Twitter CEO, JackDorsey, tweeted that the platform would not allow political advertising globally. It was intended to take effect from November 22 the same year. He defended his position, citing the adverse effects of allowing politics on Twitter. 


The implementation of the ban was accompanied by a political content policy, as shown below. The decision created a lot of controversy on the platform and other social media outlets such as Facebook. 


February 2020  

Ban of deep Fake videos 

Twitter announced the banning of manipulated content and deep fakes that the company finds could cause harm. They publicized the new policy in a tweet.


Twitter says: 

You may not deceptively promote synthetic or manipulated media that are likely to cause harm. In addition, we may label Tweets containing synthetic and manipulated media to help people understand their authenticity and to provide additional context. 

Below is a criterion that Twitter uses to determine tweets and media for labeling or removal.



When a tweet is labeled, the following message appears.


Twitter said they could allow controversial content to remain on the platform, but have a notice (like the one above) clarifying that the tweet violated its rules.



May 29 2020 

Twitter labels President Trump’s tweets for the first time on May 29, 2020 

Twitter says it labels tweets to provide 'context, not fact-checking.' 




A few days later, on June3rd, 2020, Jack Dorsey explained the situation in a tweet 



Twitter Says they are not fact-checking  



October 2020 

On October 9th, 2020, Twitter announced updates to improve Twitter's use in the wake of the US elections. In an article on the Twitter blog, Twitter employees wrote 

 “Today, we're announcing additional,significant product and enforcement updates that will increase context and encourage more thoughtful consideration before Tweets are amplified.”[14] 

There have been several updates in thepast with regards to the civic integrity policy and elections, as seen below. 


Conclusion, I don’t know how to conclude this article, but Twitter has evolved by, but it has done so in context of what has happened within their platform. This cause and reaction might not have been the best measurement for these terms and services changes. We as a society have begun to depend on these platforms for freedom of expression, and when policies such as banning and suspensions are influenced by stewards who show their own ism’s, we are in danger of being biased. For neutrality cannot be bought nor achieved by one individual alone. It is the collective voice that sets the examples, but leadership must set the rules. Twitter has crossed a dangerous line calling into question for all social media platforms section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, and in doing so, might not like what has happened. But, instead of accepting these changes, it is fighting the system to change the country that granted it these political freedoms in the first place. Yes, we can change leadership in this country. But the laws that govern our freedoms cannot and should not be touched. For these fundamentals could and may cause damage beyond the short-term benefits of a single company, social media platform, or moment in history. Time will tell, if “TWITTER CAUSE DELECTION INTERFERENCE IN ELECTION 2020.” But, like many who study this topic, and believe in this place, Twitter, to be a utopia we are haunted by a history of Google's videos of social media executives, being charged with liberal bias (,using these tools to cast their own ism’s rather than the will of the users of their platform to stay neutral and without opinion. Social Media leadership must remain free and independent. The actions intentionally or unintentionally have caused a break in trust. Fear this break will cause a retweet effect in other countries far beyond the Election2020. Twitter, Google, Facebook must realize they are not American platforms but united global platforms. The actions of their executives and leaders have ripple effects and could destroy the very utopia they hoped to create when they founded these social media platforms in turn for power, money, and political ideology.


Like many of you, I will continue to tweet despite these changes. Why? Because it is the action of raising my voice, can my voice be heard. For more information on this and other related articles, please support my efforts to publish Twitterism

I encourage you if you want to see the science, to find the published copy of my Ph.D. dissertation “Donald J.Trump’s Social Media Voice Effects on Follower Engagement: An In-depth Tone Analysis of Leadership Personas in 35,647 Tweets from 2009-2018 Using Artificial Intelligence” on ProQuest here:





‎@twittersafety‎."A Calendar of Our Safety Work." Blog. Last modified November 17,2017.

Cashmore, Pete. "Twitter Launches Verified Accounts." Mashable. Last modified June 12, 2009.

Gadde, Vijaya, and Kayvon Beykpour. "Additional Steps We're Taking Ahead of the 2020 US Election." Blog.Last modified October 9, 2020.

Gadde, Vijaya. "Twitter executive:Here’s how we’re trying to stop abuse while preserving free speech." TheWashington Post. Last modified April 16, 2015.

Jeffries, Adrianne. "Escape fromPRISM: How Twitter Defies Government Data-sharing." The Verge. Lastmodified June 13, 2013.

Jeong, Sarah. "The History of Twitter's Rules." VICE - VICE is the Definitive Guide to EnlighteningInformation. Last modified January 14, 2016.

Johnson, Ted. "Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, Twitter’s Jack Dorsey Testify on Capitol Hill." Variety. Lastmodified September 5, 2018.

Liptak, Andrew. "After Boycott,Twitter Pledges to Introduce New Anti-abuse Rules." The Verge. Lastmodified October 14, 2017.

Moss, Caroline. "Twitter Is Changing Its Policies Following Harassment Of Robin Williams' Daughter."Business Insider. Last modified August 15, 2014.

Panzarino, Matthew. "Twitter CEO Dorsey Promises More Aggressive Posting Rules – TechCrunch." TechCrunch.Last modified October 14, 2017.

Reitz, Collette. "Twitter's New Feature Lets You See Which Tweets Were Blocked for Legal Reasons." EliteDaily. Last modified December 21, 2017.

Sullivan, Danny. "Twitter Now Able To Censor Tweets, If Required By Law, On A Country-By-Country Basis."Marketing Land. Last modified January 26, 2012.

[1] Jeong, Sarah. "The History of Twitter's Rules." VICE - VICE is theDefinitive Guide to Enlightening Information. Last modified January 14,2016.

[2] Cashmore, Pete. "Twitter Launches Verified Accounts." Mashable. Last modifiedJune 12, 2009.


[3] Ibid.

[4] Jeong, "The History of Twitter's Rules.”

[5] Jeffries, Adrianne. "Escape from PRISM: How Twitter Defies GovernmentData-sharing." The Verge. Last modified June 13, 2013.

 [6] Sullivan, Danny. "Twitter Now Able To Censor Tweets, If Required By Law, On ACountry-By-Country Basis." Marketing Land. Last modified January 26,2012.

 [7] Moss, Caroline. "Twitter Is Changing Its Policies Following Harassment Of Robin Williams' Daughter." Business Insider. Last modified August 15,2014.

 [8] Gadde, Vijaya. "Twitter executive: Here’s how we’re trying to stop abuse while preserving free speech." The Washington Post. Last modified April 16,2015.

[9] Panzarino, Matthew. "Twitter CEO Dorsey Promises More Aggressive Posting Rules –TechCrunch." TechCrunch. Last modified October 14, 2017.

[10] Liptak, Andrew. "After Boycott, Twitter Pledges to Introduce New Anti-abuseRules." The Verge. Last modified October 14, 2017.


[11] ‎@twittersafety‎. "A Calendar of Our Safety Work." Blog. Last modified November 17,2017.

[12] Reitz, Collette. "Twitter's New Feature Lets You See Which Tweets Were Blocked for Legal Reasons." Elite Daily. Last modified December 21, 2017.

[13] Johnson, Ted. "Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, Twitter’s Jack Dorsey Testify on Capitol Hill." Variety. Last modified September 5, 2018.

[14] Gadde, Vijaya, and Kayvon Beykpour. "Additional Steps We're Taking Ahead of the2020 US Election." Blog. Last modified October 9, 2020.


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