Update May 24: Looks like the account is back up!
MW Executive Director Tim Whitaker confirmed to Billy Penn on Friday afternoon that the nonprofit’s Twitter account was reinstated. He’s not exactly sure why, since Twitter staff didn’t reach out at all to explain — but he assumes it was all the folks participating in the #FreeMightyWriters campaign.
“They must have heard the avalanche of all that,” he said.
No matter the reason, Whitaker’s relieved. “The idea of starting from scratch, that was concerning.”
If you’ve been missing tweets from Philly nonprofit Mighty Writers, it’s not because the group’s social media folks blocked you. Three weeks ago, the popular after-school program’s Twitter account was put on lockdown.
The offense that got Mighty Writers banned? Turning 10 years old.
In early May, when the educational organization reached the milestone of a decade helping kids get excited about reading and writing, a staffer decided to honor the occasion with a post. They typed out a celebratory birthday message and published it from the nonprofit’s official page.
Almost immediately, Twitter’s automatic security procedures kicked in. The algorithm apparently decided the account was guilty of violating the platform’s terms of service, which state that users must be at least 13. The @mightywriters account, which had 4,000-plus followers, was abruptly shut down.
It remains deactivated, despite multiple efforts to get it reinstated.
“It’s pretty silly,” executive director Tim Whitaker told Billy Penn. “There’s no way to get in touch with them. There’s no phone, [and] if you email a message comes back saying ‘We don’t monitor this’.”
The charitable troop has fought tooth and nail to earn back its page, submitting various forms and throwing up flags to the social media giant. Whitaker said they’ve yet to receive any response at all.
Twitter calls the process of combing its program for preteens “age screening.” The corporate reasoning behind the policy: it’s a way to make sure inappropriate content isn’t reaching the youngins. In the official help section, however, there doesn’t seem to be a path to reversing the decision if it was made in error.
The enforcement began back in May 2018, when Twitter added the ability to enter your birth date. It set off a storm of complaints from users who, though they were currently in their 20s, had first opened their accounts before they’d turned 13. Twitter has since reportedly helped restore some of the accounts — and several once-banned users have found their own ways to hack the system and get back on.
It’s unclear if the age lockdown has been mistakenly applied to any other brands in the past.
In the face of radio silence from Twitter Support, Mighty Writers has launched a social media campaign called #FreeMightyWriters — mostly on Facebook, because, well, you get it — with allies helping to spread the word on the bird-badged platform.
Since its founding, Mighty Writers has helped countless Philadelphia kids enhance their reading, writing and critical thinking skills. It employs roughly 400 volunteers at a time, dispatched in neighborhoods like Fairhill, Mantua, North Central and South Philly and even Camden.
Those who take part in the free program have an 81 percent rate of grade-level proficiency and 100 percent post-program college acceptance, Mighty Writers says.
The disappearance of MW’s Twitter isn’t that huge a deal, Whitaker said, but he worries it might make an impact on future volunteer participation and donations from funders. Social media is how many folks find the philanthropic team when they’re seeking an opportunity to give back.
“If people go to the account and we’re not there, they can wonder any number of things,” Whitaker said. “It’s not healthy [for the organization] to have it down like that.”