Donald Trump (Image: PA/Stefani Reynolds)

More and more Twitter accounts linked to the Trump campaign are being suspended. This time, it was the @TeamTrump election campaign account, along with White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany.

Their crime? Sharing an article by the New York Post which alleged Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, had business dealings with a Ukrainian energy company. 

Twitter moved to stop people from sharing the story, saying it violated platform policies by using information contained via hacking, containing private information or putting people at risk of physical harm, . 

Unsurprisingly there’s been backlash against the platform. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey admitted the company handled the situation poorly by blocking the story without explanation, while President Trump has threatened legal action. 

What does it take to get banned — and unbanned — from Twitter? 

Twitter was one of the first major social media platforms to take a stance on political lobbying. Last year they banned political ads, and now hide tweets from influential users (elected officials, people running for office, and those with more than 100,000 followers) which violate the platform’s rules behind a warning.

This year, it added a fact check label to posts it deems misleading — a tool that has been repeatedly used on Trump’s tweets, especially with regard to mail-in ballots. 

Accounts are suspended if a person distributes hacked material, as in the latest example, shares private information, attempts to manipulate the platform or election, spam users, impersonate others, or engages in hateful conduct. 

In this case, accounts were unsuspended after the user deleted the offending tweet. Other times, the post is removed and the user banned for a set amount of time, usually between 12-24 hours. 

Repeated violations of the rules can lead to a permanent ban, as in the case of far-right UK commentator Katie Hopkins for constantly posting “abuse and hate speech”. 

Is what’s being done right?

Media lawyer Roger Blow told Crikey social media giants had taken a huge step in deciding to ban presidential posts.

“Marking the US president as having posted something unfactual was a big step,” he said, before adding it was a necessary one.

But, he said, there was a risk the bias and divisiveness of US media outlets could now emerge in social media, which each report a different version of the news.

“It’s a major problem, and in reality, there’s no difference between social media organisations and big media companies owned and controlled and directed by people with one or another political learning.

“The question is, are they deleting half the story, or policing the manner in which democratic political parties are putting forward their version of the truth? Either way, it has to be even-handed.”

Is Russia meddling again? 

In short — yes. 

Microsoft detected new cyber attacks by Russian, Chinese and Iranian hackers against hundreds of organisations and people involved in the 2020 presidential race. Russian organisation Strontium has already attacked more than 200 organisations including political campaigns, advocacy groups, parties and political consultants.

Facebook and Twitter have taken down a network of accounts connected to PeaceData, a progressive blogging site found to be linked to the Internet Research Agency (IRA), the notorious Russian troll farm.

The CIA has said Russian President Vladimir Putin is approving and orchestrating the interference to help Trump’s reelection.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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