Twitter bills itself as “without a doubt the best way to share and discover what is happening right now.” However, it is rapidly becoming the best place to cyberbully, post pornography, and engage in the nastiest and most vulgar speech possible, all with impunity. Despite growing protests from long-established users, Twitter continues to officially turn a deaf ear to the growing outrage.
In recent months, a disturbing trend has been emerging where a small percentage of users have grown increasingly bold in their attacks on other users. These attacks may include outright slander, libel and defamation. At times, the attacks contain overt references to sexual or other bodily function activity in the most graphic and vulgar of terms. The attackers will also resort to posting links within messages appearing to be news and opinion tweets in which the links go to graphic pornographic or scatalogic images. Finally, the last method of attack so to create faked retweets of messages from users in which overtly racial (including use of the “N” word), pornographic, or graphic sexual activity is falsely attributed to the target of the attack.
Twitter does not have any stated minimum age for users in its Terms of Service, unlike Facebook and other services. Therefore, not only are the attacks being seen by all users of Twitter, they are being seen in many cases by users under the age of 18. Video games and movies contain ratings that bar inappropriate material to minors. Twitter has become a free-fire zone where nearly anything goes. It should be rated NC-17 based on the content that is appearing more and more frequently. Users of Twitter may expect to see the “N” word used with disturbing regularity as a means to attack another. Users should also prepare themselves to hear discussions and see images of explosive diarrhea, images of gay orgies imbedded in tweets supposedly about White House Easter egg hunts, see open and graphically vulgar sexual activity being offered or used as abuse, and anything else that may come to mind of the cyberbullies.
Twitter’s official stance is to do nothing unless the activity falls within a very narrow range of proscribed activities. In essence, Twitter condones the activity and makes no effort to control it or shield users from the attacks of other users.
The most common targets of the attacks in our investigation have been those who have strong conservative political views and who have high follower counts. These individuals may be singled out or attacked in groups using any or all of the chosen methods in combination. Intially the attacks were limited to a very small group of people, including conservative celebrities, but they have fanned out to rank and file users in random vicious attacks.
Reports may be made to Twitter about the activity, but with very rare exceptions, the person reporting the activity will receive the following stock reply:
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/15794If 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:
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
Twitter Trust and Safety
In summary, Twitter’s only solution is for the user to block incoming messages from the offender. This would work well if Twitter were a simple chatroom or Facebook method of communication. Blocking does not prevent the attacker from posting anything they want about another user to the public timeline. So, Twitter’s solution is for the person offended and being attacked to stop seeing the attacks, but every other user of Twitter will continue to see it, and that is the whole purpose of the attacks: to place inflammatory, racial, sexual, pornographic or other material into the public timeline for all to see in order to harass or defame another.
To compound matters, most users of Twitter filter the public timeline by using “hashtags.” A hashtag is the # symbol followed by a short string of letters or numbers by which the user can filter out everything that does not contain this hashtag designation. For example, conservatives on Twitter tend to use #tcot (Top Conservatives On Twitter), #ocra (Organized Conservative Resistance Alliance), and #ucot (United Conservatives On Twitter). There are hundreds if not thousands of other popular hashtags throughout Twitter where people find topics of interest to them where they can read and post their ideas.
By posting to hashtags, the attackers are able to make sure their tweets are being seen by a large and focused audience. Blocking an attacker does not in any way stop the tweets from appearing in the hashtag searches. In fact, the attackers make use of the hashtags to target their attacks on a person to the friends and followers of their selected targeted user.
Twitter’s official responses are basically, “This is how it is. If you don’t like it, you can leave.” Interesting approach by a company supposedly supplying a service where people of like minds can meet up and discuss ideas.
Not satisfied with Twitter’s official responses to the numerous complaints being processed by them about this recent uptick in activity, direct tweets were sent to Evan Williams (@ev), Twitter’s CEO, and to Del Harvey (@delbius), head of Twitter’s Trust and Safety Team. These messages contained links to offensive messages with a request they personally look at the material and see if this is what they wanted Twitter to become. Mr. Williams never responded. Ms. Harvey only responded by saying publicly that she would look into the matter. However, Ms. Harvey also directly responded that Twitter does not mediate content. This was a collosal mistake, as the pace of the attacks moved to a whole new dimension and became more widespread.
Twitter will have to re-evaluate the standards of acceptable behavior if it wishes to survive with this disturbing change in the way Twitter is used. It is far from a family environment. In fact, it would be considered an offensive place by most persons at this point.
What can the users of Twitter do? There are several options. They can continue to tweet and try to ignore the increasingly vulgar environment being created. They can simply leave to other services where blocking an offender actually serves the intended purpose, such as Facebook. Or, Twitter users can demand action by contacting Twitter and its officials in every way possible.
We hope that Twitter will realize its current policies are inadequate to providing the environment they wish to portray they provide. We are not hopeful at this stage. Twitter officials were given 48-hour notice of this article and the material to be presented. They never replied to request for comment or clarification. (Fucking LOL – Editor).