ICE locked itself out of Twitter by insinuating it signed up as a preteen

If you signed up for Twitter before you were 13, updating your account with your real birthdate will trigger a suspension.


Earlier today it was discovered that the Twitter account for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had been suspended. Unfortunately, it wasn't the result of Twitter taking a moral stand against unjust deportations, but rather a boring technicality. Someone at ICE changed the birthdate on the @ICEgov account so that it appeared as if the account was created before the user was 13 years old. Young enough to put them in a cage and separate them from their parents, but not old enough to use Twitter.

Twitter is a cop — Just about everyone signs up for social media accounts in adolescence by throwing in a random birthdate. But Twitter will retroactively close your account if it discovers you signed up before you were 13 — even if you're legally old enough to use the service today.

In a statement, the company explains, "Twitter requires people using the service to be 13 years of age or older. If an account's birthdate is changed to a day/month/year prior to that and our systems identify content posted by the account before they were 13 years old, they will be locked out of the account." Twitter has since reinstated the @ICEgov account, unfortunately.

Twitter used to not allow users to set a birthdate that would trigger these suspensions. It only started cracking down in 2018 after the European Union passed the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Those regulations set an age of consent of 16 years old for data collection, but member states are allowed to set the age to as low as 13.

Sometimes lying is good — The United States has similar age requirements under COPPA, or the Children's Online Privacy Protection Rule. TikTok was actually fined $5.7 million in 2019 by the FTC, which claimed that the company knew a large percentage of its users were underage. But the GDPR threatens more serious fines for infractions, so Twitter was forced to address the issue.

The initial age-related suspensions triggered waves of complaints, but Twitter didn't have a system in place to delete any tweets from before a user was 13, so deleting accounts was its only way to remedy the situation. The company eventually developed a process to wipe out violating content and return accounts to suspended users, however.

The lesson here? If you joined Twitter before you were 13, don't try and update your account with your real birthdate.