The Upgrade

Twitter’s Suspension Bots Are Out of Control

An innocent account gets caught up in a bot purge, with no explanation why

Lance Ulanoff
Published in
7 min readApr 11, 2019
Photo: Matt McGee/CC BY-ND 2.0

WWinObs was gone. Snapped away like a Thanos victim with no forwarding address. My long-time Twitter pal Rich Hay’s Twitter account was gray, though not quite dust.

Hay and I met nearly a decade ago at an early NASA Tweetup to celebrate and witness one of the last Space Shuttle launches. We bonded over our love of space and, later, a somewhat shared Windows expertise. Hay’s operating system insights are levels above mine—he’s a member of the Windows Insider program, Microsoft’s open-software testing program—but as someone who covers the platform, I appreciated the knowledge he brought to the topic on his website Windows Observer and the associated Twitter account WinObs.

Hay’s name had come up in association with a project I was working on, so I decided to contact him on Twitter. And that’s when I discovered that WinObs—an 11-year-old account with 22,000 followers, 500,000+ tweets, and nothing but good, clean, techy content—had been suspended.

TTwitter has spent a lot of time developing extensive platform rules, spelling them out in exhaustive detail on this page. Violating any of these rules can put you on the path to account suspension, but that is usually a last resort. Violators are first warned, mostly via email. That message can include the offending tweet or thread. Sometimes the email arrives at the time of suspension, but with the promise that if the offending Tweet is removed, they could be reinstated. From Twitter’s enforcement options page:

Unless a violation is so egregious that we must immediately suspend an account, we first try to educate people about our Rules and give them a chance to correct their behavior. We show the violator the offending Tweet(s), explain which Rule was broken, and require them to remove the content before they can Tweet again.

At least that’s how it’s supposed to work. But I knew for a fact that Hay didn’t fit any of the typical Twitter troll or bot profiles. Like its creator, the WinObs account is observational, inquisitive, wry, smart, friendly, and above all else, helpful.



Lance Ulanoff

Tech expert, journalist, social media commentator, amateur cartoonist and robotics fan.

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