Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey admitted in a podcast last week that the tech company was “too aggressive” in banning conservatives for tweeting “learn to code,” but the recent lock of a Daily Caller News Foundation reporter’s account suggests they’ve done little to amend the policy.
DCNF investigative reporter Chuck Ross was locked out of his Twitter account Sunday night for making a joke directed at Democratic Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. In an interview with Buzzfeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith, Hickenlooper asserted that people should be “sharpening their other skills,” to which Ross replied, “Learn to code.”
Ross quote tweeted a Slate reporter who had shared the clip of Smith and Hickenlooper’s interview in order to make his joke. Twitter apparently believed Ross was engaging in targeted harassment against journalists, and informed him his account was being locked until he deleted the tweet in question.
My Twitter account was suspended for 12 hours for sending this tweet, which was clearly a joke about the popular meme and John Hickenlooper’s comment. I thought @jack acknowledged to @joerogan that Twitter was “too aggressive” in banning ppl over this? pic.twitter.com/3o2cptsAYK
— Chuck Ross (@ChuckRossDC) March 11, 2019
Ross appealed the lock but, upon learning the appeals process could take multiple days, opted to delete the tweet and regain access to his account. Even then, Ross was not allowed to tweet from his account for 12 hours and could only browse the platform and send direct messages.
After four days and multiple inquiries to Twitter explaining the context of the joke, a person familiar with the matter told The Daily Caller that Ross’ account was locked “in error.”
According to Twitter, enforcement against targeted harassment campaigns on a large scale can lead to errors and they work to correct them as quickly as possible.
Twitter also claims that they are learning from their mistakes and taking steps to improve processes. But Twitter’s handling of the incident reveals there are still major enforcement issues with the policy on the “learn to code” meme.
“Learn to code” gained popularity during massive media layoffs at outlets like HuffPo and BuzzFeed after conservatives noted that some left-wing journalists urged coal miners to learn to code when they lost their jobs.
Initially, a spokesperson for Twitter told The Wrap’s Jon Levine that all uses of “learn to code” would lead to account restrictions. They later backtracked and said the crackdown on the meme would only apply to people engaging in targeted harassment against laid-off journalists.
That explanation quickly proved not to be true, as Geoffrey Ingersoll, the editor-in-chief of the Caller, was locked out of his account for tweeting a “learn to code” joke at The Daily Show. Ingersoll’s tweet was not directed at a laid-off journalist, and Twitter later admitted his account was locked “in error.” (RELATED: Daily Caller Editor In Chief Locked Out Account For ‘Learn To Code’)
The Caller reviewed a number of other “learn to code” tweets from unverified and lower-profile Twitter accounts that resulted in account locks despite not fitting Twitter’s stated conditions for punishment.
As Ross’ account restriction indicates, tweeting “learn to code” at any journalist could cause a careless tweet reviewer to trigger the platform’s enforcement mechanisms.
Twitter has apparently declined to review its policy on the meme despite Dorsey’s admission to Joe Rogan that “we were too aggressive” in cracking down on conservatives who tweeted “learn to code.”
“Probably our team having a lack of context into actually what’s happening, as well,” Dorsey explained. “We would fully admit we probably were way too aggressive when we first saw this, as well, and made mistakes.”