Texas politicos may notice something of a change of tone on Twitter today. For reasons unknown, the microblogging site has suspended the accounts of a small cadre of the Capitol community's more outspoken conservatives.
Chief among those being cut off from the constant stream of 140-character commentaries is Michael Quinn Sullivan, president of Empower Texans and Texans for Fiscal Responsibility. The shared account for the two organizations has also been suspended, as have those of Sullivan's staff, including social media coordinator Dustin Matocha and executive director Andrew Kerr.
Sullivan told The Texas Tribune on Monday that while he has yet to hear any explanation from Twitter, he does not suspect a deliberate attack on his group. "I’m one of those guys who thinks conspiracies are interesting for movies, but it’s usually not the way the real world works," he said.
AgendaWise, a conservative blog created by Sullivan's former employee Daniel Greer, also had its account shut down, along with Greer's personal account and that of blogger Weston Hicks.
Empower Texans and AgendaWise (on whose board Sullivan sits) share office space. Greer speculated that a technological error may have occurred that affected all the accounts associated with that location, though it could possibly be the work of a political opponent. "It could have been that some folks at the Save Texas Schools rally got bored and said our tweets are 'spam,'" he joked.
Indeed, according to the Twitter rules, the reasons an account can be suspended include suspicion that it is spam — which basically means the tweets are being generated automatically. Indicators of spam that raise red flags, according to the company's policy, include complaints from other users or if "you post duplicate content over multiple accounts or multiple duplicate updates on one account." (In the case of Sullivan and his crew, the suspended individuals in question do have a habit of promoting each others' tweets.)
Other possible reasons for suspension include creating serial accounts "for disruptive or abusive purposes" and engaging in "username squatting," in which a username known to be desired by someone else is claimed purely to prevent them from acquiring it.
"I suspect it’s probably some computer glitch somewhere," Sullivan said.
For now, the actual reason for the suspension remains a mystery — and Capitol observers spent much of Monday afternoon scratching their heads trying to solve it. Both Sullivan and Greer tell the Tribune they've filed the necessary appeals to get their accounts back. Greer had a second, dormant account that he revived Monday afternoon, though according to Twitter policy, "accounts created to replace suspended accounts will be permanently suspended."
Sullivan seemed confident that it would be worked out and that he'd soon be able to return to Twitter. Though, he noted, "this makes Google Plus look a lot more interesting."
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