A suspicious “glitch” by a third party company prohibited Twitter users from sharing links to a fake Trump Hotel site for much of Monday.
Amid the continued fury at the Trump administration’s family separation practice — implemented under the “zero-tolerance” immigration policy announced in April, which refers anyone detained at the U.S-Mexico border to prosecution — some Twitter users this week began posting tweets with links to a mock site called TrumpHotels.org. The site, which is still active, features government-distributed photos of the immigrant detention centers in which many of the young children separated from their parents at the border are being held, rather than photos of actual Trump Organization properties owned by the president’s namesake company.
On Monday, however, many users reported Twitter was flagging their tweets as “suspicious,” “spam,” or “malicious,” and preventing them from posting about the site.
It is really creepy to me that @Twitter won't let me or other users post or follow the link to trump hotels dot org today, which is the kind of scorching satire that the Internet is made for. pic.twitter.com/rB3QLHd4ZV
— Ben Wikler (@benwikler) June 26, 2018
This is crazy. Twitter won’t allow you to post a tweet with a link to trump hotels dot org – not even the words without spaces to disguise them. Try it! https://t.co/PkXOlmXuk5
— Helen Kennedy (@HelenKennedy) June 26, 2018
Monday afternoon, Twitter issued a statement to BuzzFeed technology reporter Charlie Warzel, claiming the glitch was in fact an error by a third party the company uses to stop potential spam domains and noting the error had since been fixed.
“I asked Twitter about this and they told me it was ‘an error’ that came from the company’s work with third parties to track/stop potentially suspicious or spammy domains,” Warzel tweeted. “According to Twitter the domain was incorrectly caught by one of these third parties and the error is fixed.”
i asked Twitter about this and they told me it was "an error" that came from the company's work with third parties to track/stop potentially suspicious or spammy domains. According to Twitter the domain was incorrectly caught by one of these third parties and the error is fixed. https://t.co/hM1yVIOBnb
— Charlie Warzel (@cwarzel) June 26, 2018
Twitter spokespersons did not immediately respond to ThinkProgress’ request for additional clarification.
In a bizarre twist, Gizmodo reported Tuesday that the website in question was actually started by a conservative who believed Trump’s policy on the border had been a “fiasco.”
“Every day since he’s taken office, he’s demonstrated how ill-suited he is for a job that demands diplomacy and considered thought,” website founder Loren Collins said. “Which is why he not only managed to unnecessarily create this current border fiasco, but he cannot even appear that he has any real empathy for the people involved or has given any serious thought to how to remedy it.”
While Monday’s Twitter glitch may have genuinely been an error, it’s also worth noting that Silicon Valley giants across the board have done their utmost to accommodate conservatives since President Trump’s election.
Facebook has partnered with the conservative Weekly Standard in its fact-checking program — despite independent advice saying it was unprepared to do so. According to right-wing TownHall editor Guy Benson, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey also met with conservatives last week in order to “rebuild trust,” arguably a reference to the conservative conspiracy theory about social media “shadow-banning” and the numerous white supremacists booted from Twitter over the past year for posting racist, anti-LGBTQ, or anti-Semitic content.
Mark Zuckerberg had a similar meeting with conservative leaders in 2016.
Thank you, @jack, for meeting with a group of conservatives in DC tonight. Much work must be done to build and rebuild trust — as we discussed at length — but step one is actually talking. Appreciate it, sir. 👊🇺🇸 @Twitter
— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) June 20, 2018
Twitter has also been working overtime during the family separation crisis to mute voices on the left helping to galvanize direct action. Last week, Splinter News published the phone number of Stephen Miller, a white nationalist and current White House senior adviser who is seen as the architect of Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy.
Twitter immediately moved to temporarily ban Splinter’s account at an unheralded speed, locking the accounts of those who had merely tweeted the story or retweeted the original post as well.
Similarly, when NYU adjunct professor Sam Lavinge compiled a list of all Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel he could find on LinkedIn, it was quickly struck from Twitter, GitHub, and Medium. Lavigne had gathered the information using a technique that was ruled legal by a federal judge last summer. LinkedIn is a public website.
By contrast, Twitter does not appear to have banned or suspended the official WikiLeaks account, which on Thursday posted a link to a searchable database containing the same information.
UPDATE, Wednesday, June 27: A Twitter spokesperson reiterated the company’s earlier statement in an email to ThinkProgress late Tuesday night, confirming that the link glitch had been an error by a third party.
“As part of our ongoing work to prevent spam and abuse, we work with a variety of third parties to obtain information about potentially suspicious or spammy domains. This domain was incorrectly caught by one of these third parties, and the issue has since been resolved,” the spokesperson said.