18 Apr, 2024 @ 12:44
1 min read

Why Elon Musk’s social network X just suspended dozens of accounts in Spain belonging to scientific researchers and media outlets, only to later reinstate them

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Elon Musk's efforts to fire Spanish Twitter works by email hampered by labour laws

THE social network X (formerly Twitter) on Tuesday night unexpectedly blocked dozens of accounts that belong to Spanish scientific researchers as well as media outlets, only to reinstate them some 24 hours later. 

Among those affected, according to Spanish daily El Pais, were Mari Luz Congosto and Javier Barriuso, who analyse the spread of disinformation on X itself. 

Other accounts that suddenly were suspended include those of Blanca Arteaga and Anabel Fortes, who are scientific researchers, while from the media sector, the Balearic edition of the online daily El Diario was blocked, as was AraInfo, an outlet in Aragon. 

The reason, according to those affected, was that an algorithm on the social network that is used for seeking out bots (a type of software that autonomously controls an account) or troll farms (an organised group that interferes in politics or decision-making) mistakenly identified these accounts and blocked them.

Read more: Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba voted most beautiful Cathedral in Spain on Twitter

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The Spanish users were initially told that their accounts did not comply with the social network’s rules, without any further detail.

El Pais tried to get in touch with X to find answers, but was met with an automated reply stating that its staff were ‘very busy’. 

This has been a common obstacle to press outlets seeking information from the social network since billionaire Musk took it over in October 2022, when he sacked thousands of employees including nearly the entire communication department.

Mari Luz Congosto, however, ventured that the issue was caused by a clean-up.

“We were false positives for the algorithm that hunts bots/trolls,” she wrote in a tweet. 

Previous such purges were flagged up by the Engineering account for X on the social network itself. 

In his ongoing battle against automated accounts on the social network, Musk announced this week that ‘a small fee for new user write access is the only way to curb the relentless onslaught of bots’. 

Such a fee, payable before accounts can post, like, bookmark or reply on X, was previously only active in New Zealand and the Philippines, according to account X Daily News, but could be rolled out elsewhere soon. 

Simon Hunter

Simon Hunter has been living in Madrid since the year 2000 and has worked as a journalist and translator practically since he arrived. For 16 years he was at the English Edition of Spanish daily EL PAÍS, editing the site from 2014 to 2022, and is currently one of the Spain reporters at The Times. He is also a voice actor, and can be heard telling passengers to "mind the gap" on Spain's AVLO high-speed trains.

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