On Wednesday night Twitter briefly suspended actress Rose McGowan after a series of tweets criticizing actors – including Ben Affleck – who she suggested knew about film mogul Harvey Weinstein's alleged serial sexual assault and harassment and remained silent.
The company was quickly pilloried for suspending McGowan's account, with many suggesting the social network was silencing the voice of a victim of sexual harassment. When reached by journalists from numerous outlets, including BuzzFeed News, Twitter offered its boilerplate response: it does not comment on individual accounts for to privacy reasons.
Later on, after numerous angry tweets from celebrities and others, Twitter clarified its reasoning, explaining McGowan was briefly locked out of her account for tweeting a phone number — a violation of Twitter's rules. Twitter pledged to do better in such situations, noting "we will be clearer about these policies and decisions in the future."
For close observers of Twitter's opaque harassment rules and its inconsistent enforcement of them this is a familiar dance. That's because Twitter wants everyone to know it is committed to transparency. It is also committed to committing to being committed to transparency.
Twitter was committed to transparency last month when it refused to clarify its stance toward president Donald Trump's tweets about North Korea, which the country said it viewed as an "act of war."
Twitter affirmed its commitment to transparency 4 times last month in a blog post summarizing its Russian election interference testimony before congress. Sen. Mark Warner described Twitter's presentation as "inadequate" in almost every way.
In January of this year, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey pledged to be more open and transparent about addressing the company's decade long battle with systemic harassment on its platform.
That same month, when BuzzFeed News presented the company with 27 explicit examples of harassment, Twitter replied with its boilerplate statement. And company co-founder Biz Stone promised the company would be more transparent.
This is likely because Twitter has a history of committing to being more transparent.
Like in 2015, when Dorsey apologized to developers for Twitter's past restrictions of third-party apps and pledged to be more transparent.
Similar to the kind of transparency the company promised in 2015 when Twitter began making federal campaign contributions
That is because transparency is valuable.
Transparency, you see, is part of Twitter's 10-year plan.
It's not always easy...
But Twitter is committed to openness and clarity. Pledging a commitment to transparency is one of the things Twitter does best.
Perhaps that's because the company has been doing it since 2008.
Charlie Warzel is a senior writer for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Warzel reports on and writes about the intersection of tech and culture.
Contact Charlie Warzel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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