Locking a verified business account for being underage: Where’s the logic, Twitter?
For those that don’t know, the official and verified XDA Developers’ business Twitter account was unjustifiably locked by Twitter today as it was suspected of being owned by someone underage. Now, two parts of that sentence don’t make much sense.
- XDA’s Twitter is a business account, and we don’t know many businesses owned by pre-teens.
- It’s a verified account, meaning it has already undergone a verification process, presumably by a human.
Behind the scenes, a third variable is equally as baffling. We created the XDA Twitter account in 2009 with no official birth date. When asked to input a birthday (one that was well over the required 13 years), the account was erroneously and instantly blocked and for all intents and purposes, it was like it never existed. Much like accounts that get banned, our account stopped existing. Seemingly it’s better to have no birthdate on Twitter than to declare one. We’re not sure where Twitter was going with this, but it left us in an unpleasant limbo, wondering whether we had lost our Twitter account for good.
While I may be coming across as a social-media manager scorned, this isn’t the first time Twitter has unfairly banned users with their glaringly flawed age-verification process.
In 2018, the site targeted young Twitter users whose current date of birth suggested that they were under 13 when they signed up for their account. For some, this meant getting their accounts blocked despite being in their 20s. To make matters worse, even after verifying their age, Twitter wouldn’t give them their account back, stating that it was impossible to separate the content they produced before turning 13 and after their 13th birthday.
For some of these users, it took over a year to regain access to their Twitter accounts, and when they did, they had to give Twitter permission to delete all content posted before they were 13, including likes, DMs, lists, and collections. More recently, similar verified business accounts, including 9to5Mac, have also been victims of the same policy and have been blocked for being underaged despite it being clear they aren’t.
Why is age verification a thing on Twitter at all?
As someone who works in social media, I can see why Twitter may introduce age verification to protect younger people from some of the content they may see on the platform. But that isn’t the real reason why Twitter has been blocking underage accounts, is it?
The only reason Twitter suddenly began caring about the age of its users is that they were forced to by GDPR. This whole age verification debacle was brought about because of new legislation under the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation that came into effect in May of 2018. The new GDPR legislation mandated how companies handle people’s personal data. As it happens, users under the age of 13 are prohibited from being able to create a contract with Twitter (or any other business) without parental permission, which is in line with various Contract laws around the world and more specifically in the EU.
Considering all of this kicked off in 2018 and we are now well into 2022, it’s a little concerning that Twitter’s age verification process hasn’t improved at all in the past four years, leading to genuine and verified Twitter accounts being banned for simply adding a birthday to their profile. It is also a bit baffling that it applies equally to personal accounts and to brand accounts: it would be too tall of an ask for a brand to be 13 years old before they can make their Twitter account, wouldn’t it be? There needs to be a logic update that separates the process handling for a physical entity (a person) from a fictitious legal entity (a brand), especially when the branding has been verified by Twitter itself.
While we can appreciate that Twitter doesn’t want to pay a hefty fine for violating GDPR, we would like to see a bit more common sense when it comes to banning the accounts of genuine users. Perhaps a warning would be nice? Or the ability to submit proof of age while still having access to your account? Anything but the very immediate vanishing-into-thin-air would be nice, as that is extremely nerve-wracking, especially if you have invested in your online presence and have a following built up. Watching XDA’s ~600k followers, ~50k tweets, and the coveted blue tick vanish absolutely instantly did cause its fair share of panic and worry behind the scenes.
Did you miss us? Some of you may have noticed that the XDA Twitter account disappeared earlier today. We just had to prove to Twitter that we aren’t in fact under 13 👍 For those keeping count, we actually turn 20 this year 🎉
Did you know that XDA is turning 20 in December?
— XDA (@xdadevelopers) June 9, 2022
At the end of the day, we were lucky enough to have our Twitter account back online with help from the staff (big shoutout to Tina Gurnaney for their help!). Now that everyone is happy that XDA is not, in fact, owned and run by a child, let’s get back to business.