Actress Rose McGowan has been temporarily blocked from Twitter after denouncing the film producer Harvey Weinstein and his collaborators. Reports by The New York Times and the New Yorker published over the last week allege that Weinstein raped three women and sexually assaulted and harassed numerous others, using his influence in the industry to threaten and silence his victims. The Times reported that McGowan herself reached a settlement with Weinstein over undisclosed claims in 1997.
Following the publication of these charges, McGowan has emerged as one of the most vocal denouncers of Weinstein. She has also called out numerous Hollywood figures that allegedly knew of his crimes and said nothing. She tweeted at Matt Damon asking, “what’s it like to be a spineless profiteer who stays silent?” and, on October 10th, more simply: “Ben Affleck fuck off.” She has also called for the board of the Weinstein Company to be dissolved following the allegations.
This morning McGowan shared a screenshot on Instagram showing a message from Twitter stated she has “violated the Twitter Rules” and would need to delete certain tweets before the suspension would be lifted. After the tweets have been deleted, says the message, a 12-hour countdown will start before McGowan can fully use her account again. In the meantime, her account is still publicly accessible (unlike a full suspension, where all tweets are blocked from view).
After being contacted by The Verge, Twitter said that it does not comment on individual cases “for privacy and security reasons.” Update: An explanation was later provided in a series of tweets on the official Twitter Safety account:
We have been in touch with Ms. McGowan's team. We want to explain that her account was temporarily locked because one of her Tweets included a private phone number, which violates our Terms of Service. 1/3— Twitter Safety (@TwitterSafety) October 12, 2017
The Tweet was removed and her account has been unlocked. We will be clearer about these policies and decisions in the future. 2/3— Twitter Safety (@TwitterSafety) October 12, 2017
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
For critics of Twitter, this is only the latest example of the company’s arbitrary and opaque enforcement of its own rules. In the past, it has suspended users for simply sharing threatening messages they’ve received, while those reporting rape threats are told the messages do not violate Twitter’s rules.
Debate over what content is allowed on the site recently came to the fore after President Donald Trump tweeted threats at North Korea, which the country interpreted as justification for war. Twitter said that particular message did not violate its terms of service in part because of its “newsworthiness.” Whether or not this was a consideration in the suspension of McGowan’s account is not clear, but now is not the time for Twitter to quiet a woman who is specifically trying to break a culture of silence that allowed harassment to continue for so long.
Update October 12th, 05:45AM ET: Updated to include Twitter’s response.
Update October 12th, 12:00 PM ET: Updated to include tweets from Twitter Safety account.