Tuesday, January 10, 2017

An open letter to Twitter re: harassment and bullying

Dear Twitter:

You have a harassment problem. Like an alcoholic, your biggest problem is that you won't acknowledge you have a problem. Once in a while you make a high-profile decision to ban someone, but this is so rare that it's news when it happens*, while ordinary Twitterers are being harassed every day.

But you work at Twitter, so you're going to stop reading now unless I get to the point.

There is your solution in less than 140 characters. Now, an deeper explanation.

I am a First Amendment supporter and believe that free speech is important for democracy. I would not like to see Twitter suppress hate speech. If racists and misogynists want to send out horrifyingly rude tweets every 15 minutes, that's OK.

BUT, and this is a big BUT ... Twitter shouldn't force people to read personally insulting tweets, which is how Twitter works now.

If somebody wants to call me a moron in a tweet, bully for them. But if that troll puts my Twitter handle on it, I will see it. They know it, I know it, and everyone at Twitter knows it.

This is the part of your platform that you should change, and you can do it easily and immediately. You won't even have to hire editors because God forbid you should do that. No, you can do it with a system and an algorithm.

Make a rule: No user is allowed to use someone's twitter handle while insulting someone who does not follow them. Period. 

It's really that simple. Racist and misogynist tweets are important to Twitter because Twitter goes to great lengths to protect them. Fine. BUT is it important that the objects of bullying be forced to see them?

Because this is a new rule, you can impose it with a three-strikes limit. Insult someone out of the blue, like Twitter trolls do every day, and get a warning and an explanation of the policy. Do it again and get a final warning. Do it a third time and get banned.

This doesn't restrict anyone's right of free speech. Anyone can call, to use one famous example, Leslie Jones all sorts of insulting names. But if her handle is not on the tweets, Leslie Jones won't see them unless she goes looking for them, and then that's on her.

As it is now, Twitter, it's on you.

* In the linked story above, a freelance journalist was able to get a troll's account temporarily suspended by directly asking Twitter's CEO. Bully for her! Is that really how you want your harassment policy to work?  

You have given trolls too much power on your platform. You can take that excessive power away overnight. It's up to you.

Sincerely yours,
W. Blake Gray

Forget Twitter for a moment; instead, Like The Gray Report on Facebook.

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