Last night, developer Victoria Fierce had some harsh words for Vice President Mike Pence. Incensed over the Trump administration’s recent rollback of transgender protections, Fierce let loose on Pence. “F**k you,” she tweeted. “I gotta piss, and you’re putting me — an American — in danger of assault by your white supremacist brothers.”
Almost immediately, she got the notification. Twitter had detected “potentially abusive activity” on her account, and put her in temporary timeout as a result. For the next 12 hours, only followers could see her tweets — which meant she wouldn’t be able to lobby the Vice President.
It’s part of a broader shift in the way Twitter deals with abuse — one that’s drawn fire from many of the same communities calling for stronger enforcement. In some cases, the account-lock could even be triggered by quote-tweeting a profanity-laced tweet, since the resulting tweet would include both profanity and the source’s handle.
Still, the abrupt notification caught Fierce by surprise. “It was just one tweet,” Fierce told The Verge, “and certainly not the first time I’ve told an elected official to f**k off.”
Twitter says the account throttling is tied to changes that began rolling out last week designed to diminish the reach of abusive accounts. When Twitter determines that an account is being abusive — using criteria that the company has declined to describe in any detail — it hides the account’s tweets from anyone who isn’t following it. The restrictions last for a set period of time, typically 12 hours for a first offense.