(Image: Private Media)

I am a hopeless Twitter addict. Or at least I was — until this weekend. 

Early on Sunday morning, my account was suspended for tweeting publicly available information to my followers. On Friday afternoon, I had posted a short thread where I went through public records on Australian Digital Holdings, the new production company that Alan Jones had signed with in his post-Sky News gig. I retrieved information from the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC)’s business register and from the alanjones.com.au website registration records — two databases that anyone can access.

When I rolled over in bed on Sunday morning to do my morning ritual of scrolling through Twitter first thing in the morning — you know, to ruin my day before it even begins — I was flummoxed to see that I had been suspended for those tweets.

I had fallen afoul of Twitter’s private information policy, one of the platform’s rules that forbids sharing content that would violate someone’s privacy. Originally this included data like phone numbers and addresses but late last month expanded to include media such as photographs and videos of individuals taken without their permission, even if they’re depicted in public.

The expansion of this policy has earned Twitter a lot of attention. Soon after it was enacted, Twitter users who’d used the platform to document the behaviours of people like QAnon adherents and Proud Boys were suspended from the platform for sharing footage of these groups taken in public. The policy has a carve-out for “public figures or individuals when media and accompanying tweet text are shared in the public interest or add value to public discourse”. The devil of this policy was in the execution. And it appears it’s been executed poorly.

I appealed my decision. Fourteen minutes later, an email told me that Twitter’s support team upheld their decision that I had violated the policies. The solution is pretty simple: delete the tweet and I could use my account — which is crucial for my work and my general online tomfoolery — unencumbered. 

I’m a technology reporter so I had the contact details of people who work at Twitter to get this decision reviewed. They checked it out and confirmed that, yes, I have broken the policy for sharing the address which is listed publicly. 

So far, I have refused. I don’t think I’ve done anything wrong so I view deleting it as a concession. Using publicly available information like this is a key part of open source journalism that often happens collaboratively on Twitter, where users will dig into a topic together. Plus I’m stubborn and it makes great content.

But now that I know it’s a dead end, I’ll probably cave and delete the tweet because frankly I’m a slave to the dopamine that my brain releases when someone retweets something silly that I posted.

Even though I appreciate the sentiment of this policy and wish more tech companies would take an active role in trying to protect some aspect of privacy for their users, the poor execution leaves a lot to be desired. 

If I’m being honest, even I admit that I’m no digital Rosa Parks for going without Twitter for a day. It’s probably been good for my mental health to have a spell on the blue tick bench. But the suspension and appeal process remind us how big tech will try to insert themselves into every part of our lives — but will leave you high and dry when it suits.