Twitter Wars: Serial Accounts

I looked back and realized I have a few angry posts about Twitter. I like Twitter! Far more than FaceBook (which I hate to the point I don’t even bother with it anymore). There are pretty much only two things I don’t like about Twitter: I don’t like the lack of filters and I don’t like the way they handle abuse.

My annoyance with Filters started up when people were live-tweeting, and I got bombarded with a couple hundred news related tweets by someone I followed. I like the account, but with Twitter’s webclient, you have no way to filter those comments. I still think Twitter needs a mute button. Not a block, but a temporary ‘That’s nice, Bob, but I’m tired of listening to you for a couple hours…’

That said, my current fight with Twitter is about harassment. As I mentioned last month, Twitter’s support doesn’t help it get better. Since then I’ve had another couple tickets, these handled a little better.

See, I’ve picked up hate-accounts! Part of this is my own fault. I picked on the fake Nicolette Sheridan account @NicSheri and basically called her out for being the troll that she is. But then, as that day happened to be New CSI Day, I blocked the account and went about my life per normal. Actually, since then I’ve just blocked and ignored NicSheri up until today when then humor returned, but that’s besides the point. I mixed it up with her as @jorjafoxonline. I shouldn’t have. I did. It ended badly, I walked away. On the 20th I called her a crackpot (which she then took to mean I was accusing her of doing drugs… I shit you not). You can read about that here.

All that backstory goes to explain, to me at least, how I managed to pick up a hater: IHateJFO with the slogan “JFO annoys me she gives joerja fox a bad name : ( she must be suspended” and the first post of:

Now, that alone would just relegate the user to my turf-list (I keep a list of accounts who’ve harassed me) but then it was followed up with this:

At this point I was highly amused. I tweeted about the hater, and asked people to block it and mark it as spam. Why? Because Twitter WILL NOT do a damn thing about these accounts. They’re not offering specific, violent, threats on my person. They’re just being dicks, and while that may be against Wil Wheaton’s cardinal rule, Twitter doesn’t step in. But if all 1600 people (okay maybe 1000 are real people) who follow me as JFO block someone and report them as spam, maybe Twitter will go ‘Hey, that’s weird’ and look into it.

The funny thing is that by tweeting that, the hater ‘heard’ me and made a new Twitter account! That same night, @IHate_JFO showed up and went so far as to make a special avatar of my JFO icon with an X through it:

This time, they’re using my image, my URL, my ‘name’, and an amusing bio:

Now I think I’ve got something! They’re stealing my ‘brand’! But no, Twitter gets back to me on that way and says it’s not impersonation. And since I’m not a registered trademark, they can’t get that either. Okay, I thought that was a long shot, but then I think about it. Wasn’t there some Twitter bylaw about not making multiple accounts to evade a block? See, I have blocked these accounts. I should be able to cheerfully ignore them forever, right? But then they make NEW accounts with which to harass me. Like the third one: @JFOsuxx who claims “This is the official twitter page for y’all who HATE jorja fox: online…… follow us!!”

Total, they amassed five followers, three are known to be spam ‘we follow anything’ accounts, one is @IHate_JFO (following @IHateJFO), and one is … Oh, hi, @NicSheri! Gee. Could that mean something?

While that drama’s going on, I’m re-reading the Twitter Rules looking for that mention of multiple accounts. I knew I’d read it when I made my second account. FaceBook claims you can only have one, and while I know a lot of people who ignore that rule via ignorance, I like to know what laws I’m breaking. Finally I find the right one:

Twitter strives to protect its users from spam and abuse. Technical abuse and user abuse is not tolerated on Twitter.com, and will result in permanent suspension. Any accounts engaging in the activities specified below are subject to permanent suspension.

Serial Accounts: You may not create serial accounts for disruptive or abusive purposes, or with overlapping use cases. Mass account creation may result in suspension of all related accounts. Please note that any violation of the Twitter Rules is cause for permanent suspension of all accounts.

After laughing my ass off at that first comment (user abuse is not tolerated – Except where it totally is!), I started grinning ear to ear. “You may not create serial accounts for disruptive or abusive purposes, or with overlapping use cases.” Three hate accounts, created specifically to abuse me, would fit that bill, wouldn’t it? Which means all I had to do to put the ball in Twitter’s court, to make them put up or shut up and finally prove they don’t give a shit, is make a support ticket.

So I opened Support Ticket #1324476. This gave me both success and a run-around. The success was that they agreed @IHate_JFO and @JFOSuxx were in violation, because they’d already made @ihateJFO. I got this, kind of helpful, reply:

Hello, The reported accounts have been reviewed and the appropriate action has been taken. For privacy reasons, I can not share information about other people’s accounts.

I was fine with that and asked for clarification to their policy, wanting to know if the policy was to only delete the extraneous accounts, or to delete them all? I tried to be careful to ensure they understood I only wanted to know about the policy, and not what they were doing to @ihateJFO (which I actually don’t care). Sadly, this got the ticket marked as Solved with no reply. I reopened it and asked again, worded a little differently, and was told they can’t give me info about other people’s accounts, and blah blah here’s how you block them. Uh. Okay. Thanks for reading. I tried this instead:

Okay… let me ask differently then. In GENERAL, when a user makes serial accounts, is it your policy to delete ONLY the extraneous accounts? Please understand, I’m not asking for any information ABOUT the account, I’m asking for information about your POLICY so I can understand how to best protect myself from harassment.

And their final answer, which I accept (and am VERY happy they didn’t stock-reply to me):

Unfortunately, I can not provide more detailed information regarding our policies which affect multiple account owners than that which is stated on our help pages.

Yes, a non-answer, but one I accept. Honestly, I get that there’s not rule about making an anti-me account, and that’s not even the issue here! They said “Mass account creation may result in suspension of all related accounts.” and “Please note that any violation of the Twitter Rules is cause for permanent suspension of all accounts.” To me, I’d probably take it the most brutal way. If you make it inconvenient for people to act assy like this, they don’t come back. What I wanted to know was how this works. How do you punish people for breaking the rules. Basically, they don’t. They slap their wrists.

The reason this is not a solution, by the way, became evident less than four hours after the accounts were suspended (and yes, I raised a new ticket), when @JFOsux (one X now) was created. And I blocked it and opened another support ticket to ask it be killed too:

Classy, no? I especially love the background image. But really, if blocking is ‘The Answer’ then does that mean we need harsher punishment for people who intentionally evade the block. There’s no protection past a block (or a suspension), and there’s no way to block people from Twitter itself. That’s a problem I can understand. If you block email, they’ll just make a new one with gmail. If you block IPs, your blocking innocents. Which is why running a site where anyone can sign up is work.

Right now, it’s work Twitter is failing at doing.