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Twitter’s Support Doesn’t Help It Get Better

I’m working on an ‘It gets better’ video/blog post, but right now I thought I’d take a second to bring up my concerns with how Twitter handles, or rather doesn’t handle, harassment and bullying cases.

While I understand they don’t want to have to be the police, there’s an aspect of running a community at which they’re failing. There has to be some moderation and accountability past our own morals and values, otherwise your site becomes a floundering sea of assholery. You have to be able to say ‘you know what, this behavior’s not acceptable.’ And I don’t mean that people should be nice all the time, but if you can look at someone’s tweets and see a clear-cut pattern of behavior, you should do something.

In August, I found myself in a weird situation where I was having ‘reverse’ harassment (I was accused of harassing someone else). I thought about this and said ‘You know, there should be a way to handle this past blocking them. I mean, I’ve got a healthy self-image, but some people don’t.’ and I opened a ticket on Twitter for help.

It’s a case of reverse harassment.

To date, I’ve been accused of stalking (which I’m not doing) and sending death threats (which… what sort of moron do they think I am?) by @L0rryP0r and @jorjafox (formerly @_jorjafox_ )

Supposed stalking comment: http://twitter.com/JorjaFox/status/21932778305

Supposed death threat comment: http://twitter.com/L0rryP0r/status/20789153436

Currently they’re attempting to post on my website from the IP 41.XX.X.XXX saying they’re @jorjafox from Twitter and blah blah blah. I’ve blocked the IP from being able to comment, but not being a moron, I looked it up. It happens to be a South African IP address. The L0rryP0r account says she’s from South Africa. Coincidence? I think not.

Anyway, I know this is probably going to be something you won’t do anything about, so I blocked both accounts and I’m currently keeping tabs on them via RSS (because I trust them about as far as I can spit). I’ve reported the account to the ACTUAL Jorja Fox’s agency, so one hopes they’ll do something. But anyway.

I’m being accused of being something I’m not, and mildly harassed. It would be nice if I could stop them from badmouthing me, but I’ve decided to just ignore them. I’m not asking you to mediate, but frankly impersonation and harassment is starting to get a bit out of hand.

By the way, I feel I should point out that if you follow the conversations between me (as JorjaFoxOnline) and her (as JorjaFox), you can see that she contacted me first, and asked me a question. I did not approach her and I NEVER contacted her directly. I did reply to her when she mentioned me, however.

What I got was a canned reply.

Hello, Thank you for bringing this to our attention. In order to process impersonation reports, we need to be in touch with either the person being impersonated or an authorized representative. As a reminder, parody impersonation accounts are allowed on the site.

If you are an authorized representative for this person, please provide the following information.

Username/URL of the impersonation account:
Your First and Last Name:

Thanks, TheCaptain
Twitter Trust and Safety

Between you and me, canned replies are good up to a point. I’m certainly guilty of them in support myself, but when the canned reply doesn’t fit the question, it’s either a mis-read or a don’t-care. I had not raised this as an impersonation case, but a harassment case. I did realize, on a re-read, that I was unclear in what kind of support/help I was asking for, so I got into specifics:

Which I passed on to her agency. And I am correct in thinking that the only recourse I have against the harassment is blocking the accounts? Even if they get other accounts to harass me as well?

BTW, an example of what I mean about ‘getting other accounts to harass me’ is this: http://twitter.com/Siobhanx_TW/status/20265877881

Pretty straightforward, right? I’m being accused of harassment and, in return, being harassed by the accuser, who now is getting other people to harass me as well. Which is a problem. I can block them (and I had by this point anyway), but what I wanted to know is what else can I do?

And this was the reply:

Hello, If you are being impersonated, we can remove the impersonation account. Please send us the account that is engaging in impersonation.

Thank you,
TheCaptain

Now at this point, I was getting seriously chapped. I had, I thought, been clear about what I was talking about. Harassment, not impersonation.

I am not being impersonated. I am being HARASSED by someone ELSE who is impersonating Jorja Fox. Yeah, it’s weird and confusing. Does that help?

This reply was, also, canned, and they closed the ticket.

Hello, Twitter provides a communication service. As a policy, we do not mediate content or intervene in disputes between users. Users are allowed to post content, including potentially inflammatory content, provided that they do not violate the Twitter Terms of Service and Rules (name calling is not a violation). For additional information regarding harassment and violent threats, please refer to the following support page: http://help.twitter.com/forums/26257/entries/15794

If a violent threat is posted in the future, please let us know, and send the status link. For instructions on how to find a Tweet’s status link, please refer to this support page: http://help.twitter.com/forums/10711/entries/80586

Additionally, Twitter is an opt-in service that allows its users to choose what content they receive. If you have a Twitter account, in addition to un-following a user (which will stop that user’s Tweets from being delivered to your timeline), you also can block the user. Blocking will prevent a user from following you on Twitter or replying to you.

You can block someone by following these instructions: http://help.twitter.com/entries/117063
1. Log in to Twitter.com.
2. Visit the profile page of the person you’d like to block.
3. In the right-hand sidebar under the “Actions” section, click block.

You will see an “Undo” link on the profile you blocked in case you change your mind.

Thanks, TheCaptain
Twitter Trust and Safety

I reopened the ticket and made a final comment (yes, I was pissed off here)

So when I asked this:
And I am correct in thinking that the only recourse I have against the harassment is blocking the accounts? Even if they get other accounts to harass me as well?

You meant to say ‘Yes, you are correct.’ Which is FINE, but for FUCKS sake, do you have to give a canned reply that implies you didn’t listen at all? I just want to be sure I, a perfectly normal person being accused of shit I didn’t do, has done everything I humanly can to make people leave me alone. If so, again, fine. But that’s what I want to know.

I never got another reply from them after this, by the way.

Now, all that said, here’s my problem.

I totally get (and support) Twitter’s choice not to mediate between users. I get that they don’t want to go through the hassle of patrolling their own site for fakers and people who are pretending to be celebs. It would be a full time job! But do you remember when anyone could upload anything to YouTube? YouTube had to grow up and so will Twitter.

Just look at this post by @L0rryP0r and tell me that the current system of blocking is the best they can do:

Twitter needs a better solution than ‘Block the user and ignore them.’ And to only step in if a threat is violent and concrete is ignorant. The above post is telling someone to kill themselves. That’s not concrete, though it is violent, and thus would be exempt of any help from Twitter.

Again, I really do understand that the last thing they want is to have to ‘mom’ the millions of users on Twitter. And harassment can be a very subtle and grey area, which is subjective and hell to moderate. But the current system doesn’t work.

Suggestion time! Twitter should have a database where people can report someone for harassment and not a one-click like we do for spam. An actual form so people have to do some work, link to example tweets, etc. That should limit the false reports. Then if someone keeps showing up on reports for harassment, Twitter can take a look and go ‘You know what, this person is harassing others’ and suspend the accounts. No, it won’t stop them from making a new one, but it’s better than what they’ve got now!

I don’t have to tell you how bad harassment hurts. Or how much bullying hurts. Everyone’s been harassed or bullied at least once in their life. We may not be able to stop people from doing it, but we can stop the kids from feeling like the only solution is to ignore them. We can be proactive, we just have to be willing to try.

So, Twitter. Are you willing to try?