280 Characters Or Less: How Twitter Is Becoming A More Dangerous Place For Women & Minorities

By Liz Greene

Twitter can be a double-edged sword. Most of the time, we enjoy it — it strengthens our friendships, connects us with the brands we love, and keeps us up to date on the news. But, as with all things, there’s bad that comes with the good. No, I’m not talking about the people who say something stupid and lose their jobs, or impulsive teens who casually toss up posts they come to regret later, I’m talking about the really dark side of Twitter — the threats of violence, rape, and death.

Thanks to their strong stand on free speech, Twitter has become the go-to social media platform for trolls, abusers, and white supremacists. Of course, it doesn’t take a marketing genius to recognize that’s not exactly the best way to stay in business. After an October 13 boycott by users tired of the prolific hate speech and abuse, Twitter made its sixth pledge in four years to crack down on the problem.

You’ll have to excuse me if I’m not entirely convinced by CEO Jack Dorsey’s “heartfelt” promise to “take a more aggressive stance in our rules and how we enforce them” — especially since they have yet to do anything about the biggest Twitter troll of all. Yes, you know exactly who I’m talking about.

Let’s take a look at Twitter’s complicated relationship with those who turn their platform into one of the most dangerous social media networks around.

Inciting Violence Against Women

Women who speak out about sexism, the patriarchy, racial inequality, or LGBTQ rights are constantly under attack on Twitter. Threats of rape, death, and harm to their families have become something that’s simply “to be expected” when women have the audacity to express their opinions online. The trolling and harassment of women of color is often even more hostile and offensive, as it’s racially motivated — just look at what happened to Leslie Jones. Furthermore, there are a band of trolls in the Middle East whose abuse can very likely lead to the death of the women they target.

It’s long past time for Twitter to put an end to the trolls attempting to intimidate the women who come forward with their stories of systematic sexism, abuse, and rape. But even as more and more women swear off Twitter due to the endless barrage of harassment they face, the executives in charge of the social media giant have been either unwilling or unable to do anything of real substance. And with their latest policy, what hope do we really have?


Abuse vs. “Newsworthiness”

Twitter is incredibly inconsistent when it comes to enforcing its abuse policy. For instance, the actual victims of abuse end up suspended (such as Rose McGowan) while those who perpetuate honest-to-god violations of those rules are seldomly censored. They’ll overlook the actions of those who are well known for spreading racist, homophobic, and misogynistic vitriol. Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, white supremacist leader Richard Spencer, and a veritable legion of alt-right and white supremacist mouthpieces remain active on the site.

It would be hard to talk about the problems with Twitter without bringing up Donald Trump. Though he has violated Twitter’s terms of use multiple times — including personally harassing individuals and inciting his followers to harass individuals — Twitter has given him a permanent “get out of jail free” card.

Despite multiple calls from users begging Twitter to ban the President from their platform, the social media giant instead created an official policy to excuse aggressive and threatening content in cases where it qualifies as “newsworthy.” With 62 percent of adults getting their news from social media, Twitter thought it better to continue to be a part of the problem in order to keep followers coming to them for “the news.”

What has become clear in the last few years is that Twitter’s policies aren’t there to actually protect the victims. They’re just another tool used to silence those who have experienced abuse and attempted to make their voice heard. However, the Richard Spencers and Donald Trumps of the world are free to continue using Twitter to their advantage, spreading their terrifying message of racism, violence, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and above all else, fear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Liz Greene is a makeup enthusiast, rabid feminist, and an anxiety-ridden realist from the beautiful city of trees, Boise, Idaho. You can follow her latest misadventures on her blog, Instant Lo.

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