An astronomer who was blocked on Twitter for tweeting a picture of a meteor that was deemed to have breached guidelines on intimate content has had her account restored.
Mary McIntyres account was locked three months ago after she tweeted a video of a meteor passing through the night sky over her Oxfordshire home. She initially received a 12-hour ban after being told that the clip contained “intimate” content that had been shared without a participant’s consent.
“It was not offensive or pornographic at all,” McIntyre said. “It was just a meteor.”
Her account was unlocked on Thursday after the BBC highlighted her situation and fellow users tweeted the platform’s support team.
McIntyre said that after the initial ban expired, Twitter offered to reinstate her access if she deleted the tweet and agreed that she had broken the guidelines on intimate images. She refused, having done nothing in breach of the guidelines, as she was concerned about repercussions for her role doing outreach work with children.
“It is sad that it has taken the story blowing up like this to get my account back,” she said.
Her account still contains the meteor video, which she presumes was wrongly flagged by Twitter’s automated moderation systems. “I don’t see how a human moderator could have been offended by it so I presume it was artificial intelligence,” she said.
Last year the owner of a digital photo gallery in Winchester had some of his pictures temporarily blocked by Facebook because they were said to contain “overtly sexual” content, including a cow standing in a field and an office building. Facebook apologized and reinstated the images, which had been picked up by moderation systems when the gallery owner attempted to use them as adverts.
McIntyre said she had not expected to have access returned in the wake of Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter last month, which has been followed by thousands of layoffs at the company. About 50% of Twitter’s staff have been axed and the company’s head of trust and safety has resigned, shortly after tweeting that 15% of trust and safety workers at the business had been fired.
Twitter has been contacted for comment.