Twitter Fails At Satire, Bans Nicolas Sarkozy Parody AccountBy: Drew Bowling - February 21, 2012
According to a leaked email over at pastebin, the account parodying the French president, @_NicolasSarkozy, was found to be a “non-parody impersonation.” Twitter recycled the canned “we like freedom of expression – go us!” preamble before stating that the account has been temporarily suspended due to a violation of Twitter’s policy regarding parody accounts.
Twitter’s impersonation policy states that users are not permitted to impersonate another person or entity with the intent to deceive the public; doing so will result in suspension. To lawfully satirize a person or entity, Twitter requires that users employ distinguishing criteria to establish the fakey-ness of the parody accounts, such as using a qualifier like “not” or “fake” in the username or stating that the account is in fact a parody or fake account in the bio.
While this is directly stated on Twitter’s website, reports on ReadWriteWeb and TechDirt claim that the @_NicolasSarkozy account clearly indicated that it was a fake account. Twitter never states how much you must emphasize that the account is a parody just so long as you do it. Further, the timing of the suspension is a little suspect since the account owners received the notice the morning after Sarkozy announced his run for re-election.
The group that manages the parody account, Kaboul.fr, claims that Twitter revealed to them that the request for the suspension of @_NicolasSarkozy must have come from Sarkozy himself or someone affiliated with him. The same group also manages parody accounts of Sarkozy’s wife, Carla Bruni, and former French president Jacques Chirac – both of which include the phrase “Compte parodique…” in their accounts’ bio, which Google Translate tells me means “parodic account.” I could be mistaken about this assumption, but I’m willing to guess that @_NicolasSarkozy likely had a similar disclaimer in its bio.
The parody policy stated on Twitter’s page doesn’t explicitly say that every aspect of an account – username, name, bio, and communication with others – must contain some notifier that the account is indeed a satire. The site merely offers those as suggestions for ways to avoid suspension for deceptively impersonating a real person.
Not only does the fake Sarkozy account not seem to be in violation of any of those policies, but several accounts run rampant on Twitter that are associated with American celebrities and politicians. Here is a small example of those:
Of course Rihanna had Chris Brown on her Cake remix. He likes to have his cake and beat it too.
Great. Al Gore is already claiming he killed Osama Bin Laden.
Spoke w/Green Bay Mayor tonight. Boy do I love Jim’s ability to keep a job for more than 1 year.
I can see a thousand fucking skylines, and they are all as motherfucking glorious as the first, and I can feel the touch of my friends.
I recently discovered that Obama stole the slogan “Yes we can” from the Bob the Builder theme song. Look it up.
Two small children wearing blindfolds put Great Khali’s nipples on before every match. HooOooOoo! USA! USA! USA!
By the way, I’m an organ donor so if any of you hoes need an emergency penis, holla.
As you can see, not only do any of those include the words “not” or “fake” in the account name, some of the names fly directly in the face of Twitter’s parody policies by including usernames like @TheRealRomney or @ThePresObama. Some of these accounts don’t directly specify that they’re parody accounts in the bios, either. It’s just trusted that other Twitter users will have enough intelligence to know that, for example, the real Mitt Romney wouldn’t actually say something like, “I can’t pay you to vote for me, but if elected I’ll change that” (taken from the bio of @TheRealRomney).
Twitter, however, apparently doesn’t trust French people to be intelligent enough to discern parody from reality since the site is selectively enforcing the parody policy however it sees fit; or, rather, does so to curry favor with international luminaries like Sarkozy. Yes, it’s Twitter’s site so they can cry if they want to, but the trail of Twitter’s perplexing banning of Sarkozy-related accounts stretches beyond @_NicolasSarkozy. On the same day the account received notice of the suspension, Twitter also suspended three very non-satire accounts that have publicly expressed political opposition to President Sarkozy: @mafranceforte, @fortefrance and @SarkozyCaSuffit. The suspension of these three accounts obviously can’t be explained away by claims that they are misleading impersonations since these were legitimate accounts. Left without that excuse, Twitter’s decision starts to smell of outright politics.
Twitter was contacted for comment regarding the suspension of the three accounts but, as of writing this, has not replied. In the meantime, the rancid cloud of suspicion shall continue to hang around Twitter due to their decision to suspend four accounts for politically-driven purposes.
Way to exercise those new powers judiciously, Twitter.