Astronomer's Meteor Video Was Way Too Sexy for Twitter

Mary McIntyre's account was locked for 3-plus months after automated tools flagged the clip
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 17, 2022 1:15 PM CST

Astronomers think celestial bodies are sexy, so much so that they often post about them on social media. For one UK space scientist, however, her video of a Perseid fireball over the summer was deemed too sexy for Twitter, resulting in her getting locked out of her account for three-plus months. The BBC reports that Mary McIntyre of Oxfordshire put up a six-second animated clip on the social media platform in mid-August showing a meteor streaking through the sky (still image shown here), but shortly after her post, McIntyre received an eyebrow-raising message from the site's content moderation team, which often uses artificial intelligence tools to keep tabs on and make decisions on content.

McIntyre was told the video showed "intimate content" that was being shared without the consent of the "participant." She was given a 12-hour ban and told that, to reinstate full access to her still-viewable account, she'd have to delete the offending tweet—which would also mean she'd be conceding that she broke Twitter's rules. That's something McIntyre wasn't willing to do. "I don't really want it on my record that I've been sharing pornographic material when I haven't," she tells the BBC, adding that schools regularly do searches on her before allowing her to do astronomy work with children. "I absolutely did not break that rule, it's utter insanity to think I did," McIntyre wrote on her own YouTube channel.

Some good news has come out of the hubbub around McIntyre's very-not-salacious video: Insider reports that just hours after the BBC story on her plight was published, her Twitter account was suddenly restored. Technology expert Kate Bevan tells the BBC that what happened to McIntyre illustrates the limitations that artificial intelligence has when dealing with nuanced content or other content that can simply be misinterpreted. "AI tools are OK for quick and dirty decisions, but it shows that content moderation at scale is really difficult, both for humans and for the AI tools that are supporting them," she says. Bevan adds, in apparent reference to the ever-dwindling staff at Twitter: "It's even worse when there are no humans available to review bad AI decisions." (Read more strange stuff stories.)

We use cookies. By Clicking "OK" or any content on this site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. Read more in our privacy policy.
Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.