Twitter Suspends Hundreds Tweeting #dcblackout During Protests

Twitter Inc. suspended hundreds of accounts associated with spreading a false claim about a communications failure during protests in Washington.

The action was part of an active investigation into the #dcblackout hashtag, according to a Twitter representative on Monday, who cited the company’s policy prohibiting spam and platform manipulation.

It is the latest example of Twitter cracking down on content violations since protests started last week after the death of George Floyd, an African-American man, while in police custody. The accounts affected by this crackdown have ranged from the spam-like accounts removed Monday to President Donald Trump’s.

On May 31, Trump retweeted an account that included the hashtag #QAnon in its bio, a reference to a group that believes a conspiratorial “deep state” is trying to undermine the president and his supporters. The president reposted a tweet from the account that promoted the group’s motto and included a video of a Trump campaign speech. Twitter suspended the account immediately afterward, saying that its owner had previously been suspended and shouldn’t have created a new account.

Twitter has followed the president’s account closely since it first applied labels to tweets of his that violated the company’s misinformation policy on May 26. Three days later, Twitter slapped a rule-violation notice on another tweet by Trump warning protesters in Minnesota that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”

Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz became the second prominent U.S. politician to have his tweet hidden by the platform due to a breach of its rules against the glorification of violence. Gaetz had asked, “Now that we clearly see Antifa as terrorists, can we hunt them down like we do those in the Middle East?”

The #dcblackout hashtag, which trended in the U.S. on Monday, was first tweeted by an account that had three followers. But others tweeted it roughly 500,000 times within nine hours of the initial post, according to the Washington Post. The hashtag was associated with false claims that authorities had blocked communications to hinder protesters, the Post reported.

On Monday morning, Twitter also took action against another hashtag encouraging users to kneel on people’s necks, mimicking the action of the police officer who was charged with third-degree murder in Floyd’s death. The company said it blocked that hashtag from showing up as an auto-populated search result and also blocked it from trending. A search for the hashtag on Twitter showed few results.

— With assistance by Sarah Kopit

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