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January 20, 2022updated 30 Sep 2022 10:53am

Why Twitter has suspended news aggregator Politics For All

By Bron Maher

Update 20 January:

The founder of Twitter news aggregator Politics For All has claimed he was threatened with legal action by Downing Street’s head of communications over one of the account’s tweets.

Nick Moar founded Politics For All two years ago at age 17. It and its sister news and football “For All” accounts were suspended earlier in January for, Twitter said, “platform manipulation and spam”.

Moar attacked Twitter’s official reason for the ban (“artificially amplifying or disrupting conversations through the use of multiple accounts”) in an article published on Thursday by The Spectator.

“Many other publications do this all the time, without consequence,” he wrote. “And if this were a problem, why not ask us to stop? We would have, immediately.”

Moar argued there was “something darker at play” because, he claims, he received and rejected “a mega offer to sell the network just weeks before it was taken down”.  Entrepreneur Steven Bartlett made a similar claim earlier in January in a widely-shared Twitter thread. Neither Moar nor Bartlett has substantiated the buyout claim, however.

Moar said that Politics For All “gave the government a lot of grief”, and that a tweet about Carrie Johnson at one point prompted an angry call from Downing Street.

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“One night, while I was out clubbing, No. 10’s Director of Communications called me at around 11 p.m. threatening legal action for one of our tweets. It had read: ‘BREAKING: Boris Johnson has reportedly stated he is experiencing ‘buyer’s remorse’ over marrying Carrie Johnson.’”

One of Politics For All’s most notorious habits among journalists was that it would tweet out a revelation from another outlet and only reveal the original source in a follow up tweet.

Explaining the reason for his tactic for the first time, Moar said Twitter “suppresses posts with links in them, as it wants to keep people on its platform rather than have them move on to another website. That’s why we’d always link to the original in a follow-up tweet.”

He also confirmed a tidbit reported last week by Vice that “senior journalists would even message asking us to help push their stories”.

Original story 4 January:

Twitter suspended news aggregator Politics For All for violating its rules on platform manipulation and spam, Press Gazette understands.

The social media site declined to elaborate on what exactly Politics For All had done that was in breach of the rules.

Politics For All and its associated accounts, Football For All and News For All, were suspended over the weekend, apparently without warning.

The personal account for Nick Moar, the student who runs the network of accounts, is also no longer accessible. However his profile shows a “this account doesn’t exist” message when visited rather than the “account suspended” message that appears on the others.

Asked for the reason behind the suspensions, a Twitter spokesperson told Press Gazette: “The accounts you referenced were suspended for violating the Twitter Rules on platform manipulation and spam.”

The rules prohibit behaviours including “posting misleading or deceptive links; e.g., affiliate links”, “operating multiple accounts that interact with one another in order to inflate or manipulate the prominence of specific Tweets or accounts” and engaging “repeatedly with the same Tweets or accounts from multiple accounts that you operate”.

They also cover breaches including buying followers and posting malware.

Indy100 reported it spoke with an unnamed “Politics For All insider” who told it “that they have not been informed by Twitter of the reasons why the accounts have been suspended” and that they were appealing the decision.

Politics For All (the handle for which is actually @PoliticsForAli) 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.

A follow-up tweet would typically link back to the original source.

Screenshot of Politics For All tweets

A screenshot of a typical Politics For All story. Picture: Byline Times

The strategy allowed the account to gain more than 400,000 followers, but earned Moar criticism for allegedly denying clicks to the news sites that did the reporting.

Media law trainer and consultant David Banks speculated on Twitter that: “This could possibly be the reason for the suspension — although if news media objected to this behaviour I would have expected cease and desist letters to those running the account to be their first action, rather than going through Twitter.”

The account has also been accused of misinformation and misrepresentation – in particular when it chose to emphasise a different or more limited angle than the original source.

But the approach has drawn defenders, too.

In May, Byline Times revealed Moar’s identity, reporting that he was “a Conservative Party supporter and Brexit advocate”, although the For All accounts themselves avoided making political claims. Moar became head of social media at The Spectator last year.

Twitter made a similar decision last month when it suspended an account that was sharing updates about the Ghislaine Maxwell trial in New York. The @TrackerTrial account had gained more than 500,000 followers before it was suspended, with the same reason given that it was in violation of Twitter’s rules on platform manipulation and spam, according to Fox News.

The suspension of the Politics For All network coincided with the Twitter suspension in the US of Republican representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, which the platform said was due to repeated violations of its Covid-19 misinformation policy.

Press Gazette has approached Moar for comment.

Pictures: @WohYeahWohYeah and Byline Times

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