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Twitter: Dedicated To Protecting Hate Groups

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If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I use the platform the way most people use oxygen. I love getting on there, meeting new people, and starting massive fights with them. But I have a bit of freedom where mouthing off to strangers is concerned. I have a verified account, and that little blue checkmark seems to serve as something of a shield. Despite some of the truly awful things I’ve said to people (and non-people, e.g. white supremacists, MRAs, and the current President of the United States), I’ve never received so much as a twenty-four hour ban. And when I report people, it seems like they’re found in violation of TOS more often than not.

That’s not the case for people like my friend Scarlett Parrish, who recently received a week-long suspension for…

Hurting a Nazi’s feelings.

In an email to me early this morning (which she gave me permission to publicize), Scarlett said:

The other night I tried to sign in and was met with the block screen, telling me my account was limited. I expected it to be another 24-hour “only followers can see your tweets” thing, so clicked ‘continue’ and was met with a message saying my account had been shut down for seven days due to violation of their terms of service. They wanted me to delete a tweet before being able to proceed to my DMs and I’d be unable to tweet, retweet or like for another seven days. All I can do is send and receive DMs. I can’t even adjust my profile for matters of privacy, remove my location and birthdate, that kind of thing.
The tweet they wanted me to delete was in response to an anti-Semite with 34 followers, whose timeline is full of bile against Jews. (They’re taking over Hollywood, they want all our money, the usual racism.) The ‘offensive’ tweet, word for word, was “No wonder your previous account was suspended, you goatfelching ratbastard.”
Before anyone asks, yes, Scarlett is Scottish. She takes pride in the Scottishness of her insults, and this one was fairly mild in comparison to her usual material. She was coarse, she was confrontational, but was she technically in violation of Twitter’s TOS on abuse? Let’s take a look:

“We believe in freedom of expression and in speaking truth to power, but that means little as an underlying philosophy if voices are silenced because people are afraid to speak up. In order to ensure that people feel safe expressing diverse opinions and beliefs, we do not tolerate behavior that crosses the line into abuse, including behavior that harasses, intimidates, or uses fear to silence another user’s voice.

Any accounts and related accounts engaging in the activities specified below may be temporarily locked and/or subject to permanent suspension.

  • Violent threats (direct or indirect): You may not make threats of violence or promote violence, including threatening or promoting terrorism.
  • Harassment: You may not incite or engage in the targeted abuse or harassment of others. Some of the factors that we may consider when evaluating abusive behavior include:
    • if a primary purpose of the reported account is to harass or send abusive messages to others;
    • if the reported behavior is one-sided or includes threats;
    • if the reported account is inciting others to harass another account; and
    • if the reported account is sending harassing messages to an account from multiple accounts.
  • Hateful conduct: You may not promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease. We also do not allow accounts whose primary purpose is inciting harm towards others on the basis of these categories.
  • Multiple account abuse: Creating multiple accounts with overlapping uses or in order to evade the temporary or permanent suspension of a separate account is not allowed.
  • Private information: You may not publish or post other people’s private and confidential information, such as credit card numbers, street address, or Social Security/National Identity numbers, without their express authorization and permission. In addition, you may not post intimate photos or videos that were taken or distributed without the subject’s consent. Read more about our private information policy here.
  • Impersonation: You may not impersonate others through the Twitter service in a manner that is intended to or does mislead, confuse, or deceive others. Read more about our impersonation policy here.”

Scarlett Parrish wasn’t making violent threats. The primary purpose of her account isn’t to target or abuse others (the account that reported her, however, is dedicated to spewing antisemitism). The behavior was not “one-sided” and she didn’t incite others to harass the self-professed Nazi. There were no multiple accounts, she didn’t dox or impersonate anyone. But she violated the rules because she somehow made a person who self-identifies as a Nazi to feel silenced.

Keeping the above rules in mind, Scarlett also writes:

I asked Twitter why they did nothing about the guy who tweeted me 40 times in a row to call me a cunt, to say my books were written by a cunt, everyone knows I’m a cunt…and nothing. Why did they do nothing about the guy who threatened to rape me? Nothing. Why did they do nothing about the guy who tried to track down my address and dox me? Nothing.

At the time when I reported those guys, all Twitter said was “The reported accounts do not violate our terms of service,” and said if I was so offended, “We advise you block these accounts.”

Twitter Support can’t explain why tweeting at a woman forty times in one day to call her a cunt isn’t “targeted abuse or harassment.” They can’t explain why threatening to rape a woman isn’t included under, “You may not make threats of violence.” And of course, trying to dox someone doesn’t count as intimidation in an effort silence someone, despite Twitter giving doxing its own dedicated section.

So, what does count as targeted harassment, intimidation, and threat under Twitter’s TOS?

Calling a Nazi a “goat-felching ratbastard.” Clearly, that type of behavior causes more harm than violent misogyny or blatant antisemitism, especially from a user already evading a previous ban from the service:

I keep asking them why they do nothing about abuse, and this is all they say.​ Apparently doxing, abuse and rape threats are okay, but responding to a Nazi who rages against Jews on Twitter? Why, that’s what’s offensive. His wasn’t even a verified account; he was a known abuser who’d been suspended before and come back with a sockpuppet account.

You will note that there is a section of the rules I quoted that prohibits the creation of such accounts. But they found Scarlett Parrish in violation of the TOS. Not the Nazi whose entire account is dedicated to spreading the antisemitic hate that was presumably the cause of his original ban.

At this time, Scarlett has said she’s unsure if she’ll return to Twitter even after the ban is lifted, but it leaves her in a difficult position. She’s an author, and walking away from Twitter as a platform to publicize new releases and interact with readers is a blow that not many of us could recover from. Others are faced with similar issues; journalists and activists use the platform to follow stories and organize. Some of the biggest stories of 2016 broke on Twitter and were ignored by mainstream media. For many people (myself included), the real-time citizen journalism of Twitter is the way we stay aware of the world around us. Twitter isn’t just social media, it’s educational, professional, and activist media. To leave is to close yourself off from a part of the world, so that’s why we stay.

And Twitter knows that we’ll stay for those reasons. That’s why they’ve written their TOS to appear socially conscious and protective of the free exchange of speech and ideas. But that facade crumbles like a house of cards under scrutiny of this incident and the many others like it. Scarlett Parrish isn’t the first person to be banned from Twitter for hurting the pwecious snowflake fee-fees of a person who advocates for the genocide of an entire race. She isn’t the first person to be told that the threats and abuse they’ve received are just fine by Twitter’s standards.

When Twitter talks about not wanting voices to be silenced and wanting to “ensure that people feel safe expressing diverse opinions and beliefs”, yet selectively enforces their TOS to favor violent misogynists, self-identified Nazis, and men threatening rape, they make it crystal clear just whose diverse opinions they agree with and strive to promote.

If you’d like to show your support for Scarlett, her latest book release can be found here.

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10 Comments

  1. Megan M.
    Megan M.

    Ugh. This makes me so mad! It’s completely unfair. Facebook is the same way. The very few times I’ve ever reported something they’ve never done anything about it. A GIF of cartoon porn? Fine by Facebook! A group of TERFs who are constantly posting trans misogyny on their page? Fine by Facebook! (Facebook even “suggested” it to me because they used the word feminist on their page. Ugh.) But if the Cake Wrecks’ FB page shares a post of a cake with towers that too closely resemble a penis – boom, they get the banhammer. It’s so frustrating.

    July 13, 2017
    |Reply
  2. Howdy! It’s really cool you’ve got my back like this.

    That ‘boilerplate’ reply I mentioned, I’ve had that three times. I’m going to see if I can track down an email address to speak to a real, live human being, but I don’t hold out much hope. They’ve decided me calling a Nazi a goatfelching ratbastard is the worst sin anyone can commit and that, my dears, is that.

    I’m so proud you mentioned the Scottishness of my swears, though. Makes me want to stand up and sing an extra-profane version of Flower of Scotland. 😀

    I know several friends have emailed Twitter or got in touch with them somehow, on my behalf and to be honest – I’m not expecting “Gee, you’re right; we were WAY too heavy-handed!” from them. But hell, it can’t do any harm. And I’m going to do what I can.

    As you mentioned, I’m not sure I want to remain as a member even when my ban is lifted, though, because it would mean being a member of a site that’s okay with me receiving 40 tweets (I counted) calling me the C-word, or a guy telling me I deserve to be raped…but gets an attack of the vapours when I suggest a Nazi might have a closer relationship with a barnyard animal than is legal, and his parents were unmarried rodents.

    Ho hum. Shit happens.

    July 13, 2017
    |Reply
    • Tez Miller
      Tez Miller

      We love you, Scar! 🙂 Embarrassing that I’m quarter-Scottish but nowhere near being a quarter as good as you are at swearing 😉 (Half-Irish on the other side of the family, and all I can manage is “feck” and “shite”. I’m a disgrace 😉 )

      July 14, 2017
      |Reply
    • ViolettaD
      ViolettaD

      I am proud to know you. [wipes away tear]

      July 13, 2017
      |Reply
  3. Tez Miller
    Tez Miller

    I’m always in awe of people like Jenny and Scarlett who confront these horrible people (and them quote-Tweeting gives me more accounts to pre-emptively block), and those who try to educate the horrible people.

    I’m so non-confrontational that I pre-emptively block accounts before they can contact me. People of Trout Nation, this is my Block Together list: http://blocktogether.org/show-blocks/9JySlOI2ADdTfxb9rAX4mc9gvupmPSmMfZ-JGy1t It blocks all kinds of -ist and -phobic accounts, harassers, abusers, Nazis, and Trmp supporters.

    What the block list does is automate your blocks. If I block accounts, your account will automatically block them, too, if you subscribe to the list. So yes, it inolves trusting my judgment, so I understand if anyone’s wary of subscribing.

    The list currently blocks 63,774 accounts. Says it was last updated 28 days ago, which is weird because I block accounts EVERY SINGLE DAY. (Yes, I spend hours daily dedicated to finding accounts to block. I don’t get out much 😉 )

    Anyway, it’s a resource if you need it. And feel free to share the link with your friends and followers – it’s completely free.

    July 14, 2017
    |Reply
  4. anon
    anon

    Count me as not surprised… Twitter wouldn’t remove a nude picture of me underaged at 15 years old, so legally child pornography in the US, that was tweeted with my full name. The response I got was basically “no”. I repealed and it was denied within 10 minutes. It’s still up, years later. So thanks Twitter.

    July 15, 2017
    |Reply
  5. Promise R Whitley
    Promise R Whitley

    Ugh. I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve had a 24 hour only your followers can see your Tweets punishments. For a while there, as soon as one such punishment was up, another one kicked in (I’m pretty sure someone was following me for the purpose of reporting my Tweets in an attempt to silence me). It hasn’t happened as much of late, but considering I basically use my account the same way Jenny uses hers, I know it’s only a matter of time.

    But the people who have threatened to kill me, assault me, rape me? Twitter has no problems with that. The people who’ve told me to kill myself? Also not a problem. The person following me for the sole purpose of harassing me and reporting my account? Also not a problem according to Twitter.

    It’s extremely annoying.

    July 20, 2017
    |Reply

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