TL:DR, Someone or some group is filing frivolous impersonation claims against Twitter accounts that criticise or parody Doug Ford, and Twitter is shutting them down without appeal. @DougFordFacts is the latest account hit. If this continues, political speech will be stifled.
You may remember us as RobFordFacts from the 2014 Toronto Mayoral election. We provided fact-based, researched and sourced analysis during Rob and Doug's campaigns for mayor. We're under no illusion about the impact of these efforts on the larger election, though we did (legally!) leak Rob Ford's Transit Strategy the day before his big reveal.
Things calmed down after Doug's loss, but we kept the (rather dated) www.RobFordFacts.ca, placeholder www.DougFordFacts.ca and Twitter sites going because we were pretty sure Doug would be taking another run at the top job. With Doug's pre-announcement of his candidacy and the stadium shenanigans we started posting again.
All was good until yesterday, when we received a notice that our Twitter account had been suspended. We filed the appeal and were informed that the account was "in violation of the policy on impersonation" and would not be restored. This is exactly what happened with the DougFrod parody account a few weeks ago.
Requirements for parody, newsfeed, commentary, and fan accounts. Here are the requirements for marking your account. All requirements must be met in order to comply with our parody policy. Bio: The bio should indicate that the user is not affiliated with the account subject by stating a word such as "parody," "fake," "fan," or "commentary," and be done so in a way that would be understood by the intended audience.
The account bio states "Judging Doug Ford by his record, and it ain't pretty. Not affiliated with @FordNation."
Account name: The name should not be the exact name of the account subject without some other distinguishing word, such as "not," "fake," or "fan," and be done so in a way that would be understood by the intended audience.
Our account's photo includes the site name so it won't look official
Accounts determined to be in violation of our impersonation policy, or those not in compliance with our parody, commentary, and fan account policy, will either be suspended or asked to update the account(s) so they no longer violate our policies.
The account has never referred to Doug Ford in the first person, and it's immediately obvious that this is a third-party political commentary account. Nobody in their right mind would conclude that this is an official account.
We were not provided with an opportunity to update the account. We've received a few of these frivolous notices over the past four years and have always in good faith promptly made the text even more explicit. Twitter has never explained why there is suddenly a critical problem, or how to fix it.
Like it or not, Twitter is an important forum for public discourse. If politicians or their supporters are able to flood Twitter with frivolous reports to shut down criticism it will have a chilling, undemocratic effect. Twitter needs to provide more context and direction on these policies.
Those who wish to criticise our politicians publicly should be aware that your efforts can be shut down immediately, with no recourse.
As for us, we're still active at www.DougFordFacts.ca and on Facebook. We will file an appeal on the appeal but but it's not looking good. We'd like to continue with Twitter, but really we have no idea what to do to prevent further arbitrary bans.
Rest assured, if and when Doug Ford files to run for public office we will be there with the facts.