Overnight on Thursday, one of those tweets got McGowan temporarily suspended for the platform. The actress posted an image of a message she received from Twitter to her Instagram account:
Twitter, which has a history of declining to comment on specific suspensions, initially declined to comment in this case for “privacy and security reasons.” McGowan’s Instagram post also does not include the specific tweet that Twitter determined was in violation of the rules, but the offending tweet has been deleted, and her account is unlocked.
The Washington Post found one recent, deleted tweet from McGowan’s timeline from October 11th. “Anonymously sent to me. They all knew. It starts here,” the tweet read. Attached was an image of a portion of an email that offered to set up a meeting with Bob, presumably Bob Weinstein from context, at a hotel in the early evening. The now-deleted image contained the full email signature of the person sending it, including their phone number, which could be a violation of Twitter’s rule against releasing “private information” without permission.
Later, in a tweeted statement, Twitter explained that “her account was temporarily locked because one of her Tweets included a private phone number, which violates our Terms of Service,” and that “We will be clearer about these policies and decisions in the future.”
Twitter is proud to empower and support the voices on our platform, especially those that speak truth to power. We stand with the brave women and men who use Twitter to share their stories, and will work hard every day to improve our processes to protect those voices. 3/3— Twitter Safety (@TwitterSafety) October 12, 2017
Some of McGowan’s more confrontational tweets were about Affleck. There’s one tweet that simply reads “Ben Affleck f‑‑‑off,” and another, tagging Affleck’s Twitter handle, that directly accuses him of lying. “‘GODDAMNIT! I TOLD HIM TO STOP DOING THAT’ you said that to my face. The press conf I was made to go to after assault,” she wrote.
Other tweets, some using the hashtag #RoseArmy have accused other associates and backers of Weinstein’s projects over the years of being “guilty” as well.
All of those tweets are still live, however, meaning they aren’t the specific tweets that triggered the suspension.
The specific type of limitation on McGowan’s account indicates that it might have been triggered either by the platform’s algorithms or by the result of a user report.
As we reported in February, Twitter introduced the 12-hour account limitation earlier this year. This particular punishment does not rely entirely on user reports of possible rule-breaking but instead can also be triggered automatically. If an account is tagging others in potentially abusive tweets or firing off a great deal of similar tweets flagged by the system as potentially abusive, those can be factors that prompt a suspension, the company said at the time.
But like many of Twitter’s anti-abuse practices, there’s a lot of murkiness here to the enforcement. Even as the platform takes more aggressive steps to fight harassment and abuse, the actual enforcement of the rules designed to protect its users remains inconsistent.
Twitter has previously said that it takes the “newsworthiness” and “public interest” of a tweet into account when deciding whether to take action against it or not. For instance, Twitter’s rules ban tweets that contain “threats of violence” or those that “promote violence,” but the platform has allowed this tweet from President Donald Trump to remain on the platform:
Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won't be around much longer!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 24, 2017
The potential anti-violence rule violation — as well as the newsworthiness — of this tweet are both clear. And there is an extremely strong case to be made for the newsworthiness of McGowan and her tweets in the Weinstein story, a story in which she is directly involved as a victim. But Twitter seems to have come to a different conclusion about McGowan’s tweet.
According to the New York Times, McGowan reached a $100,000 settlement with Weinstein in 1997 for “an episode in a hotel room during the Sundance Film Festival.” Although she initially declined to comment to The Times, she has since, in real time, became one of the loudest advocates for his victims.
This post has been updated multiple times with new information, including statement from Twitter.