Twitter owner Elon Musk said the platform will be amending its rule about “showing blood” after the account of Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) was suspended due to a hunting photo he used as his profile picture.
Daines, who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), was locked out of his account for hours after he uploaded a new profile picture, which shows him and his wife, Cindy, posing with a dead Montana antelope. Twitter flagged the image as a violation of the site’s standards against “graphic violence or adult content in profile images.”
“This is insane. Twitter should immediately reverse this suspension,” NRSC spokesman Philip Letsou said in a statement.
“The Senator thinks it’s preposterous that a picture of him and his wife hunting—an activity that is engrained in the Montana way of life—would be against Twitter rules,” a spokesperson for Daines said.
Daines’s Republican colleagues also rallied behind him with the hashtag #FreeSteveDaines. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) described the suspension as “Twitter jail.”
“Ridiculous. My friend Steve Daines is in Twitter jail for posting this pic with his wife Cindy,” Cruz wrote. “If you don’t like hunting, fine, don’t go. But don’t censor others who disagree.”
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) called on Musk to lift Daines’s suspension.
“It looks like you need to hire some new people and fire some bad employees who are trying to undermine you. I know this isn’t the kind of Twitter you want,” Lee wrote in a post referring to Musk.
Elon Musk Responds
Daines’s account returned to normal on Tuesday afternoon, with Musk saying that said the issue was “being fixed.”
The billionaire also promised to relax Twitter’s rule regarding graphic profile images.
“Policy against showing blood in profile pic is being amended to ‘clearly showing blood without clicking on the profile pic,'” he wrote. “The intent is to avoid people being forced to see gruesome profile pics.”
“Going forward, Twitter will be broadly accepting of different values, rather than trying to impose its own specific values on the world.”
In a statement initially sent to Daines’s office, a Twitter representative said that the rule against profile pictures showing dead animals or blood exists because there is a technical limitation.
“We don’t allow images of dead animals or blood in profile photos because we are unable to label them as NSFW (not safe for work) and keep them from being seen by users who specifically don’t want to see graphic images, including minors,” the message read.
Since last December, Musk has been releasing internal records and conversations that took place within Twitter’s previous leadership to a group of independent journalists, who went through them and publicized their findings in the form of Twitter threads. Those threads, dubbed “Twitter Files,” exposed behind-the-scene details of Twitter’s censorship moves, including the decision to suppress the reach of a story about Hunter Biden’s lost laptop in the weeks ahead of the 2020 presidential election.