Twitter temporarily suspended user accounts that either posted Trump advisor Stephen Miller’s cell phone number, or that linked to an article in Splinter magazine that included the number, including the Splinter Twitter account. The total number of suspensions is unknown.
In explaining the suspensions, a Twitter spokesperson said, “It’s against our policies to share other people’s private information on Twitter, including directly linking to that information. Today, we temporarily blocked accounts that shared this information until they deleted the Tweet that violated our rules.”
Posting sensitive personal information about an individual or organization, especially a home address and direct phone number, is known as “doxing.” It can be judged as abusive behavior by social networks and websites even if the information is available publicly online with little effort required beyond searching.
What was rare in this case was Twitter suspending accounts that linked to a news site that contained the phone number in an article, as opposed to posting the information directly in a Twitter messages or via a screenshot. Twitter’s enforcement of its rule has been criticized as uneven, with many users noting that Donald Trump had in 2015 posted the personal numbers of Sen. Lindsey Graham and Jorge Ramos, an anchor at Univision. Most recently on June 19, Twitter suspended @iceHRgov, an account that was tweeting out a list of information about ICE employees scraped from publicly available LinkedIn biographies.
Splinter, part of Univision’s Gawker Media Group, published the phone number in an article mid-day Tuesday. Twitter users began tweeting the phone number directly and linking to Splinter’s article. The number was then posted in articles at other sites, such as The Wrap, and by other journalists at Splinter and partner publications, some of whose Twitter accounts were suspended, as well as those by unrelated journalists, such as David Klion.
Miller’s number was ostensibly provided through a reporter who had previously been in touch. The number was changed later in the day. The article remains active.
Twitter has multiple forms of account suspension, and it appeared to invoke one that locks an account and hides tweets that Twitter marked as violating its rules until the account owner agrees to delete the tweet. There is typically a 12-hour delay that follows before the user can then resume normal use of the account.
Later in the day, Twitter stopped suspending accounts, although it appears earlier suspensions remain in effect or are counting down the 12-hour ban. A spokesperson explained, “At this time, the number that was previously being shared is no longer a valid number and, as such, we are no longer enforcing our policy against individuals Tweeting or linking to that information.”