Twitter owner and chief micromanager Elon Musk stepped in to unlock the account of Republican Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, who got sent to blue bird jail after changing his profile picture to a selfie of him and his wife with a dead antelope on a hunting trip.
Daines’ account was temporarily suspended for a few hours on Monday and Tuesday because his profile picture, which shows the senator holding an antelope with a small amount of blood dripping from its mouth, violated Twitter’s policy against graphic violence, according to CNN. A spokesperson for the senator told the outlet the suspension was “preposterous,” and that Twitter had originally said the account would remain locked until Daines changed his profile photo.
Not so, apparently. Sensing high-profile drama on his platform, Musk, the king of drama himself, called Daines and restored his account on Tuesday afternoon.
The senator, for his part, took offense over the suspension, which he seemed to interpret as criticism of “Montana values.” In a statement posted to Twitter on Tuesday, he thanked Musk for reaching out and acting quickly to reinstate his account.
“The initial ban over the profile photo of my wife and me after a successful Montana antelope hunt was disappointing given the fact that it is no different than photos Montanans share on social media every day. It’s our Montana way of life and we are proud of it,” Daines said. “I am glad Elon Musk recognizes this. The rest of the country benefits from the acceptance of diverse thoughts and values, including Montana values.”
As of January, Twitter’s sensitive media policy considered “severely injured or mutilated animals” as graphic content, which is not allowed on Twitter at all.
“We recognize that some people may not want to be exposed to sensitive content, which is why we balance allowing people to share this type of media with helping people who want to avoid it to do so,” the company’s policy reads.
In an email to Daines’ office obtained by CNN, Ella Irwin, Twitter’s vice president of trust and safety, told the senator that profile pictures of bloodied animals weren’t allowed on the platform because there was no one to label them as sensitive, like what can be done with other images. In those cases, Twitter puts the media behind a warning message that informs users the content is sensitive and requires they purposefully choose to see it.
“We don’t allow images of dead animals or blood in profile photos because we are unable to label them as NSFW and keep them from being seen by users who specifically don’t want to see graphic images,” Irwin said in the email.
According to Musk, not all bloodied animal photos are the same, though. The Twitter CEO addressed the Daines issue in a tweet on Tuesday and said he would change the policy. Only photos clearly showing blood would be banned, Musk decreed.
“This is being fixed. Policy against showing blood in profile pic is being amended to ‘clearly showing blood without clicking on the profile pic’,” Musk tweeted. “The intent is to avoid people being forced to see gruesome profile pics.”
Under this changed policy, Daines’ profile pic is not in violation of Twitter’s rules. The blood on the antelope, which was not that obvious to begin with, can’t be discerned if you’re just scrolling through Twitter. You have to click on the profile pic to get a better look. Judge for yourself by checking out a couple of Daines’ tweets blasting President Joe Biden’s State of the Union below.
Even then, it can be argued that with this picture, you have to know what you’re looking for.