Guess Which Philosopher Got Booted From Twitter/X (Multiple Updates)


A philosopher recently got banned from Twitter/X. Can you guess who it is?

Here’s a hint: just remember that Twitter/X is currently our best known approximation of Bizarro World.

[Note: the suspension has now been undone; see Update 3, below.]

In other words, think of one of the most well-meaning, helpful, and nice philosophers active on Twitter, and you’ll have a good chance of guessing correctly.

Here are some more hints: she holds a named chair, works in philosophy of religion and cognitive science (among other topics), is the editor-in-chief of a journal, is a co-moderator of a blog that provides career advice to newbie philosophers, illustrates philosophical thought experiments, and writes a fair amount of public-facing philosophy.

Oh, and she plays the lute.

Have you guessed yet?

It’s Professor Helen De Cruz of Saint Louis University.

Now look, I know the lute isn’t everyone’s cup of mead. It’s no mandolin, nor is it a zither, either. But that’s no reason to kick the woman off of Twitter.

Was it the reason? No one seems to know. All she received from Twitter was the following:

In a public update on Facebook, Professor De Cruz, who had over 30,000 followers on Twitter, wrote:

I wondered what on Earth could have precipitated this, as I did not violate their terms of service. I tweeted some pictures from an 18th c book I just got as a present (Telliamed). But now, I think, it’s my piece in Aeon… I got *so many* reactions to it, and my inbox the past days has been full with messages from people saying they really like the piece and it gave them hope. And it got hundreds of retweets etc. So my guess is the team of Twitter don’t like the piece?

Telliamed is “a geological treatise presented as the theories of an Indian mystic encountered by a French missionary during an imaginary voyage to India.” And the piece at Aeon is on climate change, Spinoza, and self-realization. Risqué material.

Given Twitter’s seemingly more frequent glitchiness lately, it’s possible there was no decision to suspend her account; rather, it may just have been the result of a programming problem. We just don’t know. Nor do we know if the suspension will ever be reversed.

Whatever it is that led to her being banned, we can all hope that Professor De Cruz enjoys this forced respite from that hellsite while it lasts, and in the meanwhile we can heed the lessons of her experience.

(*steps away from the harpsichord*)

UPDATE: The suspension of Professor De Cruz’s Twitter account consists in it being consigned to “read only” mode, which means that though it is visible, she cannot tweet from it.

There is some speculation on social media that the suspension is owed to a tweet from Professor De Cruz several days earlier (or a campaign in response to the tweet) about the International Chess Federation banning trans women from competing in women’s chess events.

To my knowledge, there is no evidence to support this speculation.

The tweet was mild, especially by social media standards:

Were this tweet, or a campaign against her because of it, the cause of De Cruz being banned, that would fit with the sensitivity and censoriousness of anti-trans activism, but that doesn’t seem like sufficient reason to think it played a role.

Speaking of censorship, please, for the sake of having a nice Friday evening and my syllabi ready by Monday, no comments on the topic of whether trans women should be banned from women’s chess competitions, ok? Thanks.

UPDATE 2: Banned by Twitter:

UPDATE 3 (2:59pm): Professor De Cruz reports here and on Twitter that the ban was rescinded “without explanation or justification.” It appears Twitter did not even bother to inform her of this; it was brought to her attention by one of her followers on the site.

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Joshua Synon
9 months ago

Ya, I’m here to support Helen and our discipline.

Ted Parent
9 months ago

The Aeon piece takes a pretty obvious swipe at SpaceX (kudos to her for that!), although De Cruz doesn’t name names. But I notice that the Twitter/X “terms of service” has the following paragraph:

“Services may change from time to time, at our discretion. We may stop (permanently or temporarily) providing the Services or any features within the Services to you or to users generally. We also retain the right to create limits on use and storage at our sole discretion at any time. We may also remove or refuse to distribute any Content on the Services, limit distribution or visibility of any Content on the service, suspend or terminate users, and reclaim usernames without liability to you.”

This basically means “We can boot you whenever we feel like it.”

Last edited 9 months ago by Ted Parent
J C Walmsley
J C Walmsley
9 months ago

Twitter / X is not a place for decent people.

This is, perhaps, a blessing in a not very obvious disguise.

Will Behun
Will Behun
9 months ago

Apparently I’m enough of a jerk that I haven’t been banned yet. I’m not sure I’m proud of that.

Applied Ethicist
Applied Ethicist
9 months ago

Twitter has always been a dubious use of people’s time, but now Twitter/X is disreputable. When I hear that someone is still using that site, I wonder why.

It’s over. Deactivate, delete, move on.

Helen De Cruz
9 months ago

I got back–without explanation or justification (just like the earlier suspension had no motivation). It does raise the question what we can do, as users, to try to improve user experience and stability of the platform. With a lot of the security team fired (as well as accessibility etc) it’s held together with on the whole peaceable behavior and goodwill of users, as well as a certain inertia, but that will sooner or later break down. I’ve wondered what would be the final straw, maybe the removal of the block function (one really needs it if one has a lot of engagement). We’ll see.

Mark van Roojen
Reply to  Helen De Cruz
9 months ago

Helen is one of the most gentle people on Twitter, even while saying stuff that makes one think. I gave up FB during the pandemic because is it just depressing partly because people I generally like post stuff that isn’t optimal (to put it mildly). So that left Twitter where I could interact with people I didn’t know well and sometimes disagreed with but who would interest me with stuff they said. Most of those weren’t philosopers but eventually phil twitter found me. Helen was one of the phil people posting stuff of interest to think about in a gentle way that inspired thoughtful disagreement as well as agreement..
I’m glad she’s been reinstated. That may keep me on Twitter for a while longer. But the trajectory is not good.
Basically, if someone were paid to ruin twitter as a useful forum one could not do a better job than EM has done.

Helen De Cruz
Reply to  Mark van Roojen
9 months ago

thank you for the kind words–likewise, FB is just somehow not good for my mental wellbeing so I had to give it up. It also encourages, I don’t know how, a certain groupthink that I don’t like. I do like diversity of thought and disagreement, and Twitter has a certain prickliness built into the platform that I like. Unfortunately, it can go awry when people dogpile etc. and when you have bots (e.g., when you write about climate crisis then there will invariably be people who will go on about the basic scientific consensus, not very helpful). I think inevitably, it’s a sinking ship but better to leave on one’s own terms than to be booted out!

Circe
Circe
9 months ago

I believe Helen called Elon Musk ’emerald boy’ in a recent tweet… I do not think that is unrelated. And no–this is not joke.