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Two days after Twitter vowed to "refine our policies" over moderation of content on its site, the social media company has made yet another perplexing decision, this time banning actress Rose McGowan following tweets she published questioning actor Ben Affleck's response to the growing sexual harassment and assault scandal around Miramax founder Harvey Weinstein.
Read all the coverage of the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault scandal at Gothamist and LAist
McGowan, who in 1997 reached a $100,000 settlement with Weinstein's company following an alleged incident at a hotel room during the Sundance Film Festival, has taken to Twitter frequently as the fallout continued from the New York Times' explosive report on harassment allegations against the influential producer.
On Tuesday, Affleck responded to the allegations against Weinstein via a statement posted to Twitter:
While it doesn't say it outright, the statement seems to suggest that this was the first Affleck had heard of Weinstein's alleged pattern of behavior.
McGowan, who appeared with Affleck in the 1998 Miramax release Phantoms, responded critically with a tweet claiming that Affleck knew of Weinstein's alleged abuse long before Tuesday.
@benaffleck “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. You lie.— rose mcgowan (@rosemcgowan) October 10, 2017
It's worth noting that Affleck's brother Casey is also no stranger to sexual harassment and assault charges, having settled at least two lawsuits brought against him by women who say he harassed and grabbed them while they worked for him during the production of his experimental film I'm Not There. Despite the settlements, the younger Affleck continues to deny those allegations.
In an email conversation with the New York Times Tuesday, McGowan elaborated:
The Times emailed Ms. McGowan to confirm that she was asserting that Mr. Affleck knew about Mr. Weinstein’s mistreatment of her because she had told him, and that she was accusing Mr. Affleck of lying because his statement did not acknowledge awareness of Mr. Weinstein’s behavior.
“I am saying exactly that,” she replied to The Times. She wrote nothing further.
And by Wednesday night, she said in an Instagram post published late Wednesday PT, her Twitter account had been temporarily suspended.
"TWITTER HAS SUSPENDED ME. THERE ARE POWERFUL FORCES AT WORK. BE MY VOICE," McGowan wrote in the caption of a post that screengrabbed her message from Twitter informing her of the suspension.
According to Twitter's rules regarding suspended accounts, the accounts of users under that penalty remain visible. Their activities are restricted, however, to direct messaging only, and they are blocked from tweeting, retweeting, or "liking" tweets during the 12-hour suspension period, which will end only if she deletes the tweet that spurred the suspension.
Taking a look at McGowan's history, it's unclear what tweet violated Twitter's policies so seriously that it must be deleted. However, the lack of clarity is hardly surprising given the ongoing shambles that is Twitter's moderation policy. For example, here are some cool tweets threatening SFist film critic Rain Jokinen that remain up, even after years of reporting them again and again — including a message to Twitter's then-spokesperson asking how on earth they are acceptable.
Dont be a slut give me this name @Rain— NORDAN SHAT (@FaZe_Rain) June 13, 2013
And, of course, there's the president. Tweets of his that the platform agrees might not be acceptable for other people are allowed to continue because they are "newsworthy," the company said last month. It's unclear why McGowan's first-hand reports from a headline-dominating news issue aren't considered newsworthy, as well.
And most recently, there's the mare's nest that was Twitter's suspension of an advertisement from anti-choice Representative Marsha Blackburn, a video in which the candidate said "I fought Planned Parenthood and we stopped the sale of baby body parts, thank God." Twitter later reversed that suspension, saying in a statement that "While we initially determined that a small portion of the video used potentially inflammatory language, after reconsidering the ad in the context of the entire message, we believe that there is room to refine our policies around these issues.”
A message to Twitter regarding McGowan's suspension was not returned as of publication time. According to the New York Times, the company is declining to comment, "citing privacy and security reasons."
Hours later, at 8:44 a.m. PT, Twitter responded to the furor on the matter via a series of tweets that claimed McGowan's publication of a "private phone number" was the cause of the temporary ban.
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
McGowan has yet to publicly respond to Twitter's explanation, but I think we can all rest easier knowing that while verbal abuse, threats of violence, falsehoods about women's health providers, and declarations of war are fine with the company, they're ON IT when it comes to public release of telephone numbers.
Update: The private phone number, it turns out, was part of a screenshot of an email McGowen posted from what appears to be a Hollywood executive's assistant. And below is McGowen's curt reponse to Twitter.
when will nuclear war violate your terms of service? https://t.co/72FiiyoZ59— rose mcgowan (@rosemcgowan) October 12, 2017