How Satan Was Disappeared From Twitter
The deamplification of a popular parody account shows the platform’s inconsistent — and often unexplained — rules
The notification on my phone was waiting for me when I woke up: “Satan has sent you a direct message on Twitter.”
This being 2019 and Twitter being Twitter, I wasn’t particularly surprised or alarmed. I figured it was probably spam — and not an actual missive from the Dark Lord — but I tapped to view the message just in case.
It seemed the Father of Lies was having some trouble with his Twitter account. He’d stumbled across a relevant story I’d written a while back, and wondered if I could help him out somehow. He complained that his account was being affected by a change Twitter made last year to automatically hide certain accounts in replies and search results.
I typically respond to this kind of inquiry by politely clarifying that my job is to report on people’s tech problems, not solve them, and that’s just what I told the Prince of Darkness. But Satan — Twitter handle @s8n, tagline “not evil just misunderstood” — responded so politely and dejectedly that I began to feel a bit of sympathy for the devil. After a bit of idle chitchat, I asked him what exactly made him think he was being unfairly targeted by Twitter.
As we talked, I came to know Satan as a seemingly well-meaning 26-year-old British lad whose fun ride to Twitter fame had been derailed by algorithmic forces beyond his ken, just as he was hoping to turn it into something more than a side gig. His story highlights the challenges of Twitter’s high-minded project to reinvent itself as a safer and healthier platform. And it helps to illustrate how a feature designed to fix one of its most persistent problems has become a lightning rod for some powerful critics — including President Trump, who has referred to it (perhaps misleadingly) as “shadow banning.”
In short, it seems that Satan himself has been shadow banned, for lack of a better term. And no one will tell him why.