Twitter suspended music and news publication The Fader’s account this morning, prompting an outpouring of confusion expressed with a #FREEFADER hashtag.
Three other popular music blogs — 2DOPEBOYZ, Hip Hop N More, and the Complex-owned Pigeons and Planes — have also been suspended. One possible reason: Many music news accounts tweeted footage from the BET Awards on Sunday night and the NBA Awards on Monday night.
Update: Pigeons and Planes editor in chief Jacob Moore told The Verge that the site was notified of a copyright violation by Viacom, which owns BET. Hip Hop N More editor Navjosh says he believes his site’s account was suspended over a complaint from Atlantic Records filed nearly two weeks ago, after it tweeted the track list for Young Thug’s Beautiful Thugger Girls. We’ve reached out to The Fader and 2DOPEBOYZ and will update if we hear back.
The Fader isn’t the only popular, mainstream publication to be suspended for violating Twitter’s rules in this manner, but other cases are pretty rare. SB Nation, a Vox Media sister site of The Verge, was suspended in October 2015 (alongside Deadspin) and March 2017 for posting GIFs from football games, which violated the NFL and XOS Digital’s copyright on gameplay footage.
Most high-profile Twitter suspensions are understood to be the result of hate speech or targeted harassment, as with the much maligned “pharmabro” Martin Shkreli or former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos. But Twitter refuses to comment on individual account suspensions (including this one), citing privacy and security reasons, and therefore often faces similar cycles of outrage and spontaneous theorizing. There was a similar reaction when Twitter briefly suspended popular LGBTQ academic Anthony Oliveira earlier this month.
The most popular theory about The Fader’s suspension, expressed by readers but shut down by the site’s editors, was that it had something to do with the magazine’s recent cover featuring Love & Hip Hop star and artist Cardi B. Another suggested that The Fader had also shared a Young Thug track list and gotten in trouble with Atlantic Records — also rebutted. In a video tweeted from Complex’s account, Pigeons and Planes writer John Walaszek initially said the suspension was because he “used a song in a meme” without approval from the owner. That appears to be a joke. The theories, in the absence of official information, circulate widely anyway.
It has also become one of the regular beats of this cycle for Twitter users to point out that Twitter lets actual neo-Nazis and members of the alt-right remain on its platform while shutting down popular accounts for offenses that don’t feel nearly as offensive. The platform did suspend alt-right mouthpiece Richard Spencer briefly in November 2016, but he was allowed to return, and Twitter never commented publicly on what changes he made to his account to justify that decision.
how’d the fader get suspended ant literal nazi richard spencer hasn’t
— bozena (@bozzzzzna) June 27, 2017
Twitter really about to suspend the Fader and Pigeons & Planes but leave all these white supremacist accounts unchecked. Hm. Okay
— Salvatore Maicki (@notsalmaicki) June 27, 2017
While this is more of a useful rhetorical trick than it is an airtight argument, it’s fair to point out that Twitter’s unwillingness to explain why it suspends accounts — beyond pointing any inquirer to the Twitter Rules site and more or less inviting you to guess — causes some problems.
The Verge’s Adi Robertson wrote last summer, at the time of Yiannopoulos’ ban, “The general opacity of Twitter’s anti-harassment system helps no one. It lets genuinely terrible people argue they’re victims, creates uncertainty for anyone whose unpopular opinions don’t cross over into harassment, and gives everyday users no way to figure out what they can expect from the platform.”
Though these suspensions aren’t about harassment, they still function to create confusion over the rules of Twitter and how they’re applied. And it’s really not clear how security or privacy factors into suspending a news outlet.
Update: Updated June 27th 2:03 PM to include statements from Pigeons and Planes and Hip Hop N More.