Philadelphia’s Mighty Writers are free at last.
The educational nonprofit celebrated its 10th birthday this month, but in lieu of cake and balloons, Twitter gave the group an unwanted gift that it couldn’t seem to return: a ban from its own social media account.
The Twitter trouble began for Mighty Writers three weeks ago, after Executive Director Tim Whitaker commemorated a decade of free writing workshops for children by changing the group’s “birth date” Twitter setting to 2009 — the year Mighty Writers was founded.
Twitter’s age restrictions prevent anyone under 13 from joining, and almost immediately, Whitaker said, he received a message that his account was on lock down.
“I may act like 10 on occasion, but I’m 71,” he said.
Over the past three weeks, Whitaker said he tried everything to free Mighty Writers from its social media shackles. He filled out a form to request account access, sent an email with an attached copy of Mighty Writers’ 990 to explain the mix-up, and forwarded a photo of his own ID to prove he’s well above 13.
But, until Friday and a bevy of news coverage and attention from the Philadelphia Office of the Representative, the account remained locked.
Whitaker said he’s grateful Mighty Writers’ Twitter is back in action.
“I was worried about the interruption about people not seeing it was there and wondering, ‘What did they do to get it taken down?’” he said Friday.
The Mighty Writers account posts photos from the organization’s writing workshops, advertises classes, and retweets writing and educational content — “pretty standard stuff,” Whitaker said.
The question of what goes and what stays on Twitter has been raised over the last year amid controversies over how it handles offensive or extremist content, and the platform’s initial hesitancy to fully ban InfoWars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Twitter first said Jones’ tweets spreading misinformation on the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, violence in Charlottesville, Va., and the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting did not violate the platform’s rules. Facing backlash, Twitter changed course, banning Jones entirely.
This month, the White House launched a tool for people who feel they’ve been unjustly censored, suspended, or banned from social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.
For Whitaker, restoring access to the Philly nonprofit’s 4,000-follower Twitter account was more than a matter of principle.
It was about perception and proving legitimacy, so that the organization can continue to receive funds to teach more children to think and write with clarity.