Why Politics for All was banned from Twitter
Social media expert says news account’s suspension is ‘one of the shadiest things I’ve ever seen’
A political news aggregator with more than 400,000 Twitter followers has been permanently banned from the social media site for allegedly “violating” rules on “platform manipulation and spam”.
Politics For All (PFA) “achieved notoriety for its eye-catching tweets, often consisting of red alarm emojis, the word 'NEW' or 'BREAKING', and the most notable claim from a recent news story”, said Press Gazette. A follow-up tweet would typically link back to the original news source.
This winning formula attracted a “substantial following” that included “MPs and government ministers”, said The Guardian. But while PFA was labelled as “strictly impartial”, the social media account was accused of “distorting stories by focusing on specifics that would go viral”, the paper continued.
“Denying clicks to the news sites that did the reporting” was another point of contention surrounding the account, added Press Gazette.
Over the past year, the brand has “become something of a talking point” for “both its business model and the man behind the empire”, said Joe.co.uk.
PFA was launched two years ago by Nick Moar, then 17 years old, and was “adopted as a source of news by political aficionados on Twitter”, said The Telegraph. Its suspension last weekend came “apparently without warning”, said Press Gazette.
In a Twitter thread, media law trainer and consultant David Banks speculated that reducing traffic to news sites “could possibly be the reason for the suspension – although if news media objected to this behaviour I would have expected cease and desist letter to those running the account to be their first action, rather than going through Twitter.”
PFA's sibling accounts News For All and Football For All have also been frozen, as has founder Moar’s personal Twitter account. Moar became The Spectator’s head of social media last year.
“The fact that Twitter will allow The Taliban on their platform, but not a simple news aggregator is quite something,” a PFA insider told The Telegraph. “We will be appealing this decision”.
A Twitter spokesperson told the newspaper that PFA and its affiliated accounts “were permanently suspended for violating the Twitter rules on platform manipulation and spam”.
A message sent from Twitter to PFA, and seen by The Telegraph, explained the violation “includes overlapping accounts: operating multiple accounts with overlapping personas or substantially similar content”, as well as operating “mutually interacting accounts” and “coordination: creating multiple accounts to post duplicative content or create fake engagement”.
The ban is “a sign of how the social media platform has substantial power to deprive news outlets of their audience without warning”, said The Guardian, and the move “could attract political scrutiny”.
Social media sites will soon become regulated under the forthcoming Online Harms legislation, “with mainstream journalism outlets lobbying hard to ensure their access to audiences is protected”, said the Guardian.
Steven Bartlett, founder of social media marketing agency Social Chain, posted on Twitter that he considered the ban to be “one of the shadiest things I’ve ever seen from a social media platform in my entire life”.
Bartlett said that Twitter had informed the network of accounts that the ban had come into force because News For All had retweeted a PFA post, something “virtually every media company does – including the very biggest in the world”. Bartlett said he believed “Twitter saw them as an easier target / an easier voice to silence, because they’re a young group of kids and not a big Murdoch corporation”.
The Independent’s columnist and sketch writer Tom Peck tweeted that PFA had become popular through “sensationalism, exaggeration and utterly shameless plagiarism. A thrill to see the timeless values of British journalism alive in the next generation, even if not welcome on Twitter”.