Twitter blocks astronomer for an “intimate” shot of a meteor

Astrophotographer Mary McIntyre was blocked on Twitter for three months after a video of a meteor she posted on the platform was marked as “having intimate content”. 

An image of a meteor that Twitter recognized as intimate. Photo: @Spicey_Spiney

According to the BBC, McIntyre’s video was marked by Twitter’s automated moderation system, and she was given only one opportunity to correct the situation — to delete the tweet. However, if she didn’t, it would mean her agreeing to the claim that the content violates the social media company’s rules. What made the situation even more confusing was that the distribution of the video by other astronomers on her behalf did not affect their limitations in any way.

“It’s just crazy. I don’t want that in my story there be that I share pornographic materials, although I don’t do it,” McIntyre was indignant.

The ban lasted for three months. All this time, her publication and account remained visible, but the service user could not access it. Only the publicity in the media helped the astronomer to reach the Twitter support service, which eventually solved the problem. Technical support apologized to the astrophotographer, explaining the misunderstanding by the limitations of any artificial intelligence system that Twitter has.

“Artificial intelligence tools help to check millions of publications every day. Screening algorithms are suitable for making quick decisions. But large-scale content moderation is really difficult — both for people and for artificial intelligence tools, so sometimes mistakes happen,” explained on Twitter.

It remains unclear what exactly in the video caused the erroneous decision of the Twitter automatic moderation system. It is quite possible that the mystery of the failure will never be solved.

In the time between McIntyre’s ban and the restoration of her access, Twitter has experienced massive upheaval. Its shareholders approved the acquisition by Elon Musk, who subsequently made the company private and dismissed numerous of its employees, the service moderation department was particularly badly affected.

Earlier we reported that an extremely slow fireball puzzled astronomers.

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