Twitter bans viral news aggregator account Politics For All

By Alma Fabiani

Published Jan 5, 2022 at 11:23 AM

Reading time: 2 minutes

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The Twitter account Politics For All (PFA) was permanently banned from the platform over the weekend due to “multiple or severe violations” of the company’s manipulation and spam rules. A Twitter spokesperson further noted that the news aggregator had been “artificially amplifying” its audience and would not be allowed to return.

The suspension stretches to News For All, Football For All, and the personal account of Nick Moar, the 19-year-old who founded the accounts while he was still in school. PFA’s popularity grew rapidly over the year of 2021 by “aggressively aggregating news stories published and reported by mainstream outlets,” The Guardian wrote when reporting on the matter. “Its understanding of what would go viral on Twitter attracted hundreds of thousands of followers, including MPs and government ministers,” the publication continued.

But Moar’s knack for finding viral news was not the only problem Twitter found with his accounts—PFA was also accused of distorting stories by focusing on specifics that would trend. Mainstream journalists also complained that the account’s use of emojis in its breaking news posts would often attract more social media shares than the same posts originally shared by the outlets who actually reported on the stories. At surface level, it looks like PFA was banned for simply having a clearer understanding of how social media works than mainstream news outlets. But it should also be noted that it was recently found that the use of emojis protects abusive posts from being taken down. Does the same apply to biased and misleading posts?

As a response to the permanent ban, a PFA insider told The Telegraph, “The fact that Twitter will allow The Taliban on their platform, but not a simple news aggregator is quite something. We will be appealing this decision.”

The account had been adopted as a valuable source of information by many Twitter users for disrupting political news cycles—by highlighting stories that might otherwise have been missed by most before publishing a second tweet linking to the original article. Its fan base included the likes of former Manchester United footballer Gary Neville, who was among those calling for the account to be reinstated.

Moar, who launched the first account when he was 17, is a Conservative supporter and advocate for Brexit, but PFA has aimed to be impartial—emphasis on aimed. “Artificially amplifying or disrupting conversations through the use of multiple accounts is a violation of the Twitter rules,” the message from the company stated. “This includes overlapping accounts: operating multiple accounts with overlapping personas or substantially similar content. Mutually interacting accounts: operating multiple accounts that interact with one another in order to inflate or manipulate the prominence of specific tweets and accounts. And coordination: creating multiple accounts to post duplicative content or create fake engagement,” it continued.

The ban of three relatively popular news aggregation services by Twitter could attract political scrutiny on the platform. Social media companies will soon be regulated by Ofcom under the forthcoming online harms legislation. Let’s just hope this doesn’t mean that our beloved @SimplePolitics will get the sack too.

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