Twitter has abruptly suspended several parody accounts that mocked a number of Russian officials, including a popular profile dedicated to impersonating President Vladimir Putin.
In a rare case of censorship, the social media platform known for advocating free speech has taken down the @DarthPutinKGB account, which while active had over 50,000 followers. Another profile that spoofed Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov under the guise of @SovietSergey was also blocked, according to Radio Free Europe.
The spate of targeted takedowns has led some commentators to criticize what they deem Twitter's double standards, noting that the social network has previously resisted pressure to tackle extremism and hate speech on its service.
For those of us who never had a chance to experience the @DarthPutinKGB account in all its Putin-parodying glory, Radio Free Europe has collected some juicy quotes from its zenith. "A 'sphere of influence' is just a polite term for a mafia clan's territory," reads a typical tweet attributed to the spoof profile. "A soviet Russian counterterrorism operation kills 146% of the suspects," states another post. And, of course, there's this highlight: "Leonardo DiCaprio isn't good looking enough to play me."
Although Twitter itself refuses to comment on the matter, the blog linked to the @DarthPutin account has issued an evidently incensed statement: "This is a Russophobic stab in the back by the accomplices of terrorists!" Despite adding, "I will be back," we doubt that kind of reaction will help its cause.
Nonetheless, most Twitter users will probably agree that the tweets in question are nowhere near as overtly offensive as the abuse that has been hurled around the site over the years.
A closer look at Twitter's policies for 'parody, commentary, and fan accounts' could offer some insight into the possible reasons behind the suspensions. Twitter claims that it takes no responsibility for its users' content, urging members to resolve disputes amongst themselves. However, if a violation of its terms of service is reported, it can take action.
The only violation that seems plausible in this case is in regards to the profile bio rules -- this is the summary attached to each account. Twitter states: "The bio should indicate that the user is not affiliated with the account subject by stating a word such as "parody," "fake," "fan," or "commentary," and be done so in a way that would be understood by the intended audience."
According to Politico ,the bio on @DarthPutinKGB read: "146% of Russians didn't elect me. You don't visit Russia, I visit you. I serve tea to those that call this parody. Tweets made topless signed vvp." Perhaps, this blurb simply wasn't satisfactory enough for the platform. Although we may never learn who reported it, we're guessing the Darth Putin account managed to ruffle quite a few feathers during its illustrious run.
Update: The @SovietSergey account has been reinstated.