A Twitter glitch led to a huge number of temporary bans simply for using an innocent word, the company has confirmed.
If you are a fan of the Memphis Tigers basketball team, or of Dutch soccer player Memphis Depay, you may have had your account temporarily blocked by Twitter last Sunday.
That’s the absurd situation that has seen an, as yet indefinite, number of users attempt to post messages on Twitter, only to be automatically ‘banned’ by the service. This is not a case where they have shared false information on Twitter, for example. Users did not receive the five warnings that Twitter may delete their accounts.
Nor is it that anyone in the company has anything against those athletes. As confirmed by the official Twitter account, it was all an error, a ‘bug’ that has already been fixed, but how is it possible that someone can be banned for such an innocent word?
People who tweeted Memphis are banned on Twitter
It was in the middle of last Sunday, March 14, that some users began to notice that some of the tweets they had posted had been deleted by Twitter; Instead, a message was displayed stating that they had “violated Twitter rules”.
At the same time, the users who posted those messages were temporarily banned from the platform, one of the usual punishments when someone violates the terms of service the first time.
The only thing these users had in common was that they had written messages with the word ‘Memphis’; In effect, the name of the U.S. city. Once it became clear what was going on, tweeters took matters into their own hands, trending the problem and creating related memes. There were even some who tried to ‘troll’ with this, tricking other users into typing the name Memphis and thus losing access to their account.
Twitter fixes but does not explain
At midnight tonight, the official Twitter account confirmed the existence of a ‘bug’ that caused “many accounts” to be temporarily limited when posting the word “Memphis”.
The company has apologized for this, and has not only confirmed that it has already fixed the problem, but also that the affected accounts have already been restored; Therefore, if your account was blocked for posting the word, you should have it back by now.
Twitter has not clarified how many users have been affected by this problem, nor the reason behind it. Given the automatic punishment received by those who posted the word, we can guess that it was a glitch in the social network’s moderation algorithms.
Certain words are automatically caught by Twitter’s moderation systems, and in this case, everything indicates that “Memphis” was added to the list by mistake; So all tweets posted were flagged as violating the rules. The question is how that word got on the ‘blacklist’, but only Twitter knows that and has been unwilling to say.
At least, we have gained some memes. On the social network, “Memphis” is already known as “the m-word”, referring to the fact that saying it is worse than blurting out a known racist slur. And the aforementioned footballer Memphis Depay has shared a tweet proclaiming himself as “he who must not be named”, a reference to the Harry Potter saga.