If you’re a Twitter user in the UK, you’ll have struggled to miss the rise of Politics for All over the past year. Run by a 19-year-old and his young team, it shared breaking politics stories from around the media, often reaching young audiences who might not otherwise engage with political news.
According to Byline Times
, “[Politics for All’s] tweets were allegedly seen 800 million times a month, according to individuals familiar with the page”. It had more reach than many traditional media outlets.
But now it’s gone, along with a number of other ‘for All’ accounts from the same stable. Twitter says the accounts have been permanently suspended for “violating the Twitter Rules on platform manipulation and spam”.
The company hasn’t elaborated on what ‘platform manipulation and spam’ means in this case. Social Chain co-founder Steven Bartlett has a theory
you can choose to believe or otherwise, but his thread has some useful background about the company either way.
Some, like Bartlett, see the move as a shady example of a social platform abusing its power to get rid of a disruptive force in the media industry. But many journalists see Politics for All as having been a content thief that got massive engagement by tweeting other people’s scoops, often emphasising a compelling but misleading angle from one aspect of a story to ramp up the shares, and only linking to the source material in a follow-up tweet.
I lean towards the latter viewpoint. I found Politics for All’s approach to curation distasteful. But then can you really blame them for using approaches that Twitter—through its design—encourages?
One reason they did the widely hated ‘share the story in the first tweet and link to the source in a followup’ thing is because tweets without a link tend to get more of an algorithmic boost
- so, Twitter does kind of encourage such behaviour.
People do a similar thing on LinkedIn, so it’s not just a Twitter problem. It feels manipulative and a bit dirty, but if it gets results you can see why people feel they have to do it to get attention.
We hear a lot about social media companies’ efforts to clean up their platforms, but when users are just trying to achieve ostensibly honest aims—share news and grow their businesses—should they be penalised for using the platforms’ features as they stand to achieve their goals?
Whether or not Twitter should have banned Politics for All, the account’s growth tactics are a result in part of features Twitter itself engineered.
Through their policies and design choices, platforms shape not just what users can and can’t do, but how they work around the limitations put in their way. Politics for All’s grubbiness was if anything a result of the incentives and restrictions Twitter itself put in place.