Last week, a sitting member of Congress sued Twitter for defamation. This week, Twitter faces an even greater crisis: It blocked me, the best and most prolific user of its service.
On Monday, some Twitter users began circulating a rumor that changing your birth year to 2007 on the social media service would unlock new color schemes. (Who doesn’t love new color schemes?)
Unfortunately, it is a prank.
I found out the hard way. As an intrepid reporter, I saw some of the childish calls to action, as well as @TwitterSupport’s warning against changing your birth year, and decided I needed to investigate. Despite not previously listing my birthdate, I changed my birthday on my account to Jan. 1, 2007, to get those sweet, sweet color schemes.
Twitter immediately locked my account.
Twitter users like me, who changed their birth years, found themselves locked out of their accounts for violating the company’s terms of service, which “require everyone who uses Twitter to be 13 or older.”
“We have determined that you did not meet the minimum age requirement at the time this account was created,” Twitter said to me, a 29-year-old man reportedly born on Jan. 1, 2007.
Twitter started automatically blocking users who list themselves as under 13 when the European Union implemented its General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) last May, a company spokesperson told me — but not before he confirmed that I was actually blocked and had a long, hearty laugh to himself. GDPR, a set of laws that are meant to give users more control of their data, requires that children obtain verifiable consent from a parent or guardian to use internet services or visit websites that process personal information.
The US also has the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, a law passed in 1998 that requires all websites that collect children’s personal information to require parental consent for underage users, though kids often circumnavigate those restrictions by misrepresenting their age on age checks.
Twitter’s spokesperson said the company had noticed the birthdate-changing trend earlier on Tuesday, after a number of accounts triggered the automatic lockout.
Twitter does not require users to enter their birthdates, but those who do are required to at least appear over the age of 13, or they’ll get auto-blocked, like @rmac18 (RIP).
“Today is a great day,” BuzzFeed News reporter Alex Kantrowitz said in a private company Slack room. “Amazing how they finally fixed their platform.”
“Wow Twitter shadowbanned Ryan for doing bad tweets,” wrote reporter Caroline “Karl” O’Donovan, who seemed to be confusing a “shadow ban” with an actual ban. “Free thought died today.”
Free thought may have died, but I am free. Long live @rmac18.