Twitter was great, Jack! Until people decided it was the best tool with which to destroy civilisation.
One user calls another one a defender of paedophiles. The accused rejects the accusation — and is banned. Is this what you dreamed of, Jack?
Heads up, Jack.
The information wars have been raging online for two years now, Jack, and so far, the far right (and their sponsors, speculation as to whose identity is a matter for another day), are winning. Mostly, this was down to the element of surprise. People — and by people, I mean the left, the centre, and the centre-right — hadn’t realised how influential social media could be in forming opinions among the general public, the media, and thus, ultimately, in the corridors of power.
Then Brexit and Trump happened, Jack, and people woke up. They started fighting back. They started calling out the lies they had previously assumed no one else had been stupid enough to fall for. They identified the lines from the playbook, the logical fallacies that were being deployed, and developed counterarguments. The tide began to turn back.
As this unfolded, the social media giants, Jack, started to panic about their (unwitting?) role in the affair. They introduced tougher policies, with the aim of rooting out hate speech — or at least of whitewashing their role in propagating it. And at first, the new policies worked well. Hate preachers began to disappear from the public domain.
But of course, Jack, people — even far-right knuckledraggers — eventually learn, and adapt. And so it was that a few weeks ago, the friendless little incels on Gab.ai worked out a way of twist these new, stricter rules to their advantage.
My old Twitter account, Jack, was permanently suspended two months ago. I was never abusive or threatening; except, on isolated occasions, towards Nazis.
(A peculiarity, for those who have not experienced this: when Twitter suspends you permanently, they don’t actually give you a reason why. They don’t tell you which tweets constituted violations of the terms and conditions. My best guess? A particularly slimy Nazi — name available on request — threatened to post my personal details on the internet. They had probably got them from the who.is entry on this blog. I responded by suggesting that it might not be the best idea to threaten someone when you have no idea who that someone is; I know people at Twitter UK, I know senior detectives, I know private detectives, I know journalists, I know hackers, I know actual spies. It was a fair warning, and one that remains operative.)
I hadn’t abused anyone or stalked anyone or harassed anyone or directly threatened anyone or violated any terms or conditions. I had merely given as good as I had got.
I appealed against the ban. I got a form letter. “Go away.”
And then this turned up as a comment on the blog last week:
The most amusing aspect of this gloat? It didn’t even have the wit to mask its IP address. Now I and you know that this little Nazi prick lives in Dulverton Avenue, Coventry. And bonus! Because it replied to another comment from a different node, we know where it works as well. How proud and brave are these white supremacists in the flesh, I wonder?
(Incidentally, honey, my other accounts — see if you can find them — have got 40+ of your kind banned in a month. Mwahh!)
But now new tactics are afoot. Some accounts, such as @robesonblogs, are baiting people with the explicit aim of getting them suspended or permanently banned. The particular exchange I was told about went more or less as follows:
A: [Random political point]
B: [Islamophobic comment]
C: “That comment was Islamophobic.”
B: “Why do you support child rape?”
B: “Why do you support child rape?”
B: “You are a child rapist.”
B: “Why do you support child rape and rape children?”
C: “I do not support child rape or rape children. Why are you so obsessed with child rape?”
*C’s account reported and suspended for a week*
This was the exact wording of the tweet that earned the suspension:
Current job: guardian of empty blog*
Sole interest: rapes of white children by brown people (white rapists may continue raping with impunity, and brown kids can go hang)
*The blog linked to in the account bio contains only dummy text. It’s one of the more transparent troll accounts I’ve seen. I can tell you that as of 1.30am on Saturday 12 May, the account @robesonblogs has also been suspended. It remains to be seen whether or not it will return. C’s account has now been restored after a weeklong ban.)
Does this tweet — in response to multiple accusations of paedophilia and support for paedophilia — really constitute a suspendable offence, Jack?
Regardless of what becomes of this particular case, or of my old Twitter account, you should know this: people are exploiting Twitter’s rules in the exact opposite way from that which you intended. Nazis are successfully removing anti-Nazi voices from Twitter. They are exploiting loopholes in your rules in order to silence opposition and facilitate the reintroduction of fascism.
Was this what you envisioned, Jack, when you launched Twitter in 2006? Was this how you imagined making the world a better place? Do you really think permanent bans should be issued without any consideration of the context in which tweets were posted? Is it maybe time for a tiny rethink?