Twitter and why you can’t say everything.

Over the past 24 hours we’ve seen a very hateful, abusive and targeted campaign on Twitter towards one individual. This individual was Leslie Jones, one of the stars of the new Ghostbusters. Now, this film has come under a lot of criticism over its all-female cast. I personally haven’t seen the film yet so I can not say whether I liked the film or not, but looking at the trailers it looks alright. But back to what happened on Twitter recently. Leslie Jones tweeted this last night:lesliejones

She had fake tweets spread on Twitter supposedly coming from her like this one: CnssjrVW8AAF5zB

She was subjected to mentions such as these:

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Nero has since been banned. Nero has a history of being punished by Twitter for the way in which he used the service. One of the last punishments was Nero losing his verification badge, which resulted in him petitioning the White House to get it re-instated. You can read all about that by clicking here.

You could say that these are teenage boys. Or that this is expected of the internet. But it shouldn’t be. No-one should be harassed and abused in such a way. No-one should be reduced to tears because of a targeted hate campaign against them. No-one should be felt that a place like Twitter is not safe for them.

You can say that what Twitter did to Nero was unfair and is stopping him from his exercising his freedom of speech. But it isn’t. Sure, we have freedom of speech on Twitter. But it comes with rules and guidelines we should follow. We agreed to them when signing up. Freedom of speech does not give us the right to abuse someone.

A Twitter spokesperson even said it in a press release:

“People should be able to express diverse opinions and beliefs on Twitter. But no one deserves to be subjected to targeted abuse online, and our rules prohibit inciting or engaging in the targeted abuse or harassment of others.”

The de-verification of Nero on Twitter was a warning. A slap on the wrist. They didn’t censor him. They told him what he did and said on Twitter was not within the guidelines. He continued and now has gotten what follows. A permanent ban.

This isn’t a free speech issue, this is an issue about the disregard of the rules of Twitter to which he agreed to when signing up. Follow the rules, or be booted.

Twitter has very clear, easy to follow guidelines. Follow them, and you’ll be fine.

The news that Twitter is making changes in the coming weeks to the way it addresses with abuses is welcome news as for far too long the process to report abusive tweets has been ineffective. Reporting someone who is being abusive to you does not mean that they will be dealt with. Other options also include muting the person and blocking them, but this leaves them able to just create a new account and carry on with what they were doing. Of course, there is no magic answer to abuse on Twitter, but there are ways to address it and make Twitter a far safer space for us to enjoy.

And for anyone not sure on the Twitter Guidelines, here they are:

Abusive Behavior

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.