I should have known better than to change the date of birth on my company’s Twitter Account Veryfi to the company’s inception date 2 years ago. Without warning or any confirmation Twitter immediately declared that I must be underage and locked the company account.
As panic set in, I explored my options. Oh I can prove to Twitter my identity by submitting my drivers license to them. But how will Twitter know I really own this company account if my identity is no tied to the Veryfi Twitter account? I shrugged and decided to share my drivers license.
Little did I realize that their form was also broken and kept on rejecting the drivers license photo followed by disabling the “Upload image” button. A company with a market cap of $30B based in the heart of SF cannot do basic QA (quality assurance) on a feature that serves justice? No way! In the end I managed to get it working. There, sent.
While my company also owns a Youtube account on which we explain about our services and products, I have never come across such a situation on it. When we started the channel we did take the services of a company to buy views as buying youtube views might feel like cheating, but it’s really not and ever since then our channel has been booming in views thus helping the business to grow drastically. In other words, the Youtube algorithm and automated response is way better than Twitter, and you can see in the below image why I said that.
Few hours later, silence.
I check gmail.
A sentence has been served…
At this point I had enough. But, let’s rewind this a tad to reflect on this problem.
How to destroy trust
Jack (CEO of Twitter) gained my trust for Twitter when he came back to Joe Rogan(JRE Podcast) for the 2nd time to cleanup the mess of his first appearance. Kudos to Joe Rogan for reeling him back in and for Jack to face the music. Jack arrived with his legal advisor Vijaya Gadde. Tim Pool(an American journalist, YouTuber, and political commentator) also joined to spice up the discussion.
During the interview, listening with laser sharp focus, I gained more empathy and respect for Twitter and it’s daily challenges. A platform that is juggling free speech, propaganda and fake news. It is a bloody tough job! Peoples emotions run wild. We all have something to say.
How does one determine truth from fact?
When does one hand down a sentence?
“ei incumbit probatio qui negat, non qui dicit” — Presumption of guilt, in Latin
Presumption of guilt is a default position based on pessimism and suspicion whereas presumption of innocence is based more on optimism and trust. So which playbook does Twitter really play?
But I disgres.
Tim Pool drilled Jack and Vijaya around the decision making process before killing Twitter accounts. “Where does machine logic and where does human intervention come in?” Of course the answers were colorful but Jack made bold promises for a better review processes and more care before killing accounts.
I was sold. I now gave Twitter more love. They had a hard problem to solve and their CEO had committed to fixing it.
Until, months later, when I declared my company’s twitter age to be 2. <insert-police-lights-here>
Should computers run the world?
Strangely enough, the night prior I was glued to Royal Institutes lecture by Hannah Fry(a British mathematician, author of Hello World) speaking about machine bias in decision making. You can catch it here on YouTube: https://youtu.be/Rzhpf1Ai7Z4
Hannah presented a fascinating topic. She questioned the audience to see who would let machines dictate their fate in a legal system where machines are used to do just that. Being a software engineer by degree and a 2nd time entrepreneur I declared that I rather let an algorithm decide fate. My view was that due to a more logical approach, minus the human emotion bias that occurs during heated trials, a machine will lead to a fair outcome.
“Ladies and gentlemen, please return your seats and tray-tables to their full upright positions, and extinguish all smoking material, as we’re about to land in the red zone. Ahh! No survivors!” — Fight Club
Hannah, I was wrong!
Where to from here…
Back to the case at hand.
The story is Twitter decided to ban Veryfi’s Twitter Account https://twitter.com/veryfinance because I wanted to tell the truth and tell them the company’s actual date of birth was 2 years ago. Twitter’s logic was as simple (and stupid) as this:
IF age(dob) < 13 THEN
12 hours later… I think Twitter actually deleted Veryfi’s Twitter Account without any due diligence.
Earlier in the day I also complained to @TwitterSupport using my personal twitter account. I’m pretty sure it fell on death ears since no one acknowledged or offered to help.
.@jack @TwitterSupport locking out a business account @Veryfinance because I changed the dob to when biz started is illogical and illustrates how poorly your filtering / monitoring / code works. #disappointed pic.twitter.com/UnE7DEKIQq— Ernest (@ernestsemerda) April 23, 2019
Tonight I went for a walk to reflect on this issue. Walking past many famous companies based in Mountain View (CA); Giants that have stood the test of time. It lifted my spirit and got me thinking. Given Twitter’s pessimistic authoritarian style and hypocrisy, will they stand the test of time?
I recalled a wise decision my wife and I made (over 10 years ago) to eliminate the idiot box (TV) from our home. We have not regretted it since. Books have replaced the space where the idiot box used to live.
Do we need Twitter? I don’t think so. It saps our energy and time. No business, big or small needs Twitter.
And now I am at peace.
PS. This article was also published on Medium: https://medium.com/the-road-to-silicon-valley/your-twitter-account-has-been-locked-7bff4e69300d
Links mentioned in the article
- Joe Rogan Experience #1258 — Jack Dorsey, Vijaya Gadde & Tim Pool: https://youtu.be/DZCBRHOg3PQ
- Should Computers Run the World? — with Hannah Fry: https://youtu.be/Rzhpf1Ai7Z4
- Hannah Fry’s Website: http://www.hannahfry.co.uk/
- Veryfi’s Banned Twitter Account: https://twitter.com/veryfinance
About Veryfi (banned from Twitter for being 2 years old)
Veryfi, Inc. is a California, US-based mobile software automation company founded in December 2016 and backed by Y-Combinator inc other prominent investors in Silicon Valley. Veryfi helps Architecture, Engineering & Construction (AEC) workforce of all sizes to get access to Veryfi’s smart mobile tools to eliminate 90% of time wasted doing data entry (& chasing records), improve job costing and empower their financial prosperity. To learn more visit: https://www.veryfi.com/