On Friday afternoon, buzzing rapper Baby Keem tweeted that some of his fans have been suspended from Twitter for sharing his lyrics.
“So like... if you quote Baby Keem lyrics they put you in twitter jail?” he wrote. “Free my dawgs.”
As it turns out, this wasn’t just a case of the young rapper being hyped up on orange soda. Keem fans are indeed facing temporary bans from Twitter for quoting lyrics online.
Richard, a Keem listener from Los Angeles County, tweeted the iconic line, “Fuck you mean/Bitch, I’m Baby Keem” from his eponymous song. The tweet was deleted and Richard was, he says, suspended for two days as a result.
He tweeted a censored version immediately after the suspension, and had no problems.
The line, though, appears to be inconsistently censored. Another fan tweeted the same lyric back in December 2018, and has not received repercussions.
There seems to be one line in particular that causes the most problems. Keem’s most popular song, “Orange Soda,” contains the lyric, “When you come see the crib, you better die, hoe.” Multiple people have been suspended for sharing that lyric. One of them, a Keem fan from Philadelphia named Colin, was suspended for 24 hours after answering a friend who had tweeted the previous lyric in the song with the “crib” line.
Twitter told Colin that the tweet was “considered a threat.” And he wasn’t the only one to get a day-long suspension for that line. Another Twitter user named @CGOGCB received one as well. “I just got a 24 hour ban for tweeting “when you come to the crib you better die hoe,” they tell Complex.
And Keem’s lyrics caught other fans in the crossfire as well.
Richard, for one, thinks that Twitter’s response was unfair. It’s “very uncalled for,” he told Complex via DM. “I’m a small account tweeting lyrics… I should be able to cuss in my tweets.”
Colin is a little more philosophical about it. “Twitter’s overreacting but there’s probably an algorithm that controls the bans and it probably is set up with some keywords to find tweets like mine,” he writes via DM. And he figures that the algorithm “doesn’t use any type of context or any sort of ‘plagiarism check’ to see if they’re lyrics, quotes, etc.”
That issue—how can you determine if something is a threat or a quote—is the hidden issue at the heart of the Twitter bans. Can Twitter determine intent? Should it be able to?
A source at Twitter tells Complex that while they won’t comment on this particular case specifically, there are several factors that come into play in situations like this. First, you are not allowed to engage in “targeted harassment.” That includes, according to the guidelines, “content that wishes, hopes or expresses a desire for death, serious bodily harm or fatal disease against an individual or group of people.” It’s easy to see how Keem’s “die, hoe” line could run up against those guidelines.
A second potential factor is copyright. Twitter does not search for copyrighted material, but it does respond to complaints from copyright holders, and will frequently send a takedown notice. But, given Keem’s apparent support of his fans’ tweets, this situation seems unlikely.
Keem himself declined to comment beyond his initial tweet about the situation when Complex reached out for a quote. So, for now, “Free my dawgs” will have to stand as his final word.