Twitter blocking sprees: Worthwhile anti-hate move, or waste of time?
August 20, 2020 1:51 AM   Subscribe

I want to do something about online hate. After reading the replies to an infamous FBI tweet, I found myself last night going down a rabbit hole of Pepe the Frog accounts, each one posting over the top anti-Jewish language. Later a blue Twitter banner acknowledged my 30 reports. I'm confused though about whether anything happens when I do this. Am I being silly and naive when I spend 20 minutes clicking "Report" and pretending to be an anti-hate bounty hunter, or is there data suggesting that we make a difference doing this?

Also wondering more generally about whether there are more effective ways to get involved reporting online hate speech en masse. I do remember the recent 48-hour walkout, but it does not seem to have altered the widespread availability of neo-Nazi opinions that show up on the first pages of my Twitter search results.
posted by johngoren to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I can't give you hard data, so disregard if this isn't helpful, but I'm pretty sure that the only way this changes is if enough of us make it clear that we're not happy to just ignore it. Make it more work for them to deal with the fallout of letting it happen than to control it in the first place.
And as a Jew, (I don't know if you are or not) it's very good to know there are people bothering to do it.
I guess I just want to suggest that even if it doesn't have a measurable effect (though I'll be interested to see what other Mefites have to offer on that) you're not being silly and naive in doing it.

Actually, on edit, a fairly concerted reporting campaign finally got Graham Linehan banned from Twitter for being a hideous transphobe, so maybe...
posted by BlueNorther at 2:02 AM on August 20, 2020 [3 favorites]


I don’t look for it, but usually find things to report every couple days.

In my experience, usually several days to several weeks can pass before action might occur to an account. These come up as updates on the reports you submitted.

From personal experience I find it takes more time than before to see updates after reports, but I’m not sure why that is the case.
posted by Bodrik at 2:08 AM on August 20, 2020


Graham Linehan was banned after repeated instances of targeted harassment by his followers, over several years. So I'm not sure if was actually one thing that made him get booted, more like a constant flow of bad behaviour on his part that was semi-actionable.

I've spent a lot of time reporting things and I don't see a lot of change.
posted by The River Ivel at 2:18 AM on August 20, 2020 [3 favorites]


I do this and I know the blue banner from Twitter you mean. Usually a week or so letter I get a follow-up notice from Twitter where they say that they have confirmed that the person I reported does indeed violate their guidelines, and they are taking action. Often, that action involves suspending the account. Or they will ban them for a week.

I've found the secret involves a bit of painstaking work - pick one guy, and then drill down inside all their tweets, including the tweets they post in response to others (it's the "Tweets and replies" part of their profile). And then I file a separate report for each one that's objectionable (there's an option to add multiple tweets to a single report, but something tells me that that just makes them easier for Twitter to overlook).

I also don't say anything to the poster themselves at any point because fuck 'em.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:59 AM on August 20, 2020 [14 favorites]


For the most part, these people can just make another throwaway email address and make another Twitter account. If it makes you feel good, keep doing it, but there are probably more effective ways to use your time.
posted by fiercecupcake at 6:56 AM on August 20, 2020


I do this when I see stuff, and I always used to get follow-ups a while later saying Twitter had acted on my complaint, though mostly it seemed they’d just been told to take the offending tweet down. Very occasionally a temporary ban.

More recently, I feel like I’ve not had any response to my reports (apart from the automated “we’ve seen your report” banner). The reporting process also now includes a lot of “We’re not doing this nearly as quickly as usual because covid” stuff from Twitter, so I feel a bit like they’ve just half given up on the whole thing. I don’t know when I last got a message indicating they’d taken any meaningful action on my reports.

I still figure it’s worth doing, just, given that it takes little effort. But don’t hold your breath.

(On the other hand, once when I complained to twitter customer support about some kind of UX issue. I was amazed to get a genuine email reply from a human being, so maybe that’s one other option that might get a response?)
posted by penguin pie at 7:13 AM on August 20, 2020 [1 favorite]


For the most part, these people can just make another throwaway email address and make another Twitter account. If it makes you feel good, keep doing it, but there are probably more effective ways to use your time.

I want to second this. Twitter knows it can keep hate speech off its platform in the same way it was successful in squelching ISIS accounts. But, well, this headline says it all: "Why Won’t Twitter Treat White Supremacy Like ISIS? Because It Would Mean Banning Some Republican Politicians Too."

Unless and until Twitter decides to eradicate hate from its platform, regardless of who it might ensnare, individual efforts to report hateful content won't have much impact.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 7:52 AM on August 20, 2020 [2 favorites]


A note to the OP to redirect -

Unless and until Twitter decides to eradicate hate from its platform, regardless of who it might ensnare, individual efforts to report hateful content won't have much impact.

I am reminded of a story my aunt tells sometimes, of a man walking on a beach after a storm has washed a whole bunch of starfish up onto shore. Several of them are still alive but in some distress. As he walks, the man sees another man ahead of him - periodically the man bends down, picks up one of the starfish and throws it back out to sea.

"What are you doing?" the first man asks when he catches up.

"Throwing the starfish back in the water."

"Why bother, though?" the first man gestures around the beach. "There's hundreds of starfish on this beach. You couldn't get all of them back in the water in time. What difference does it make?"

The second man hesitates, then bends down, picks up another starfish. "It'll make a big difference to this starfish," he says, then he throws it back out to sea.

...Getting a single Nazi off twitter won't in and of itself solve the entire problem. But it will stop one person for at least a little while, or frustrate them enough that they may decide a campaign of hate isn't worth the bother. The more time they spend sulking in a Twitter ban, or trying to find a new email to use to sign up again, the less time they have actually spreading hate.

You're not going to solve the whole problem singlehandedly. But, you weren't supposed to solve the whole problem singlehandedly anyway. Do what you can, and trust that others are also working towards the same goal, and collectively our efforts will move things along.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:03 AM on August 20, 2020 [14 favorites]


I think you're doing a lot of unpaid work for a platform that doesn't care. The more effective thing would be to leave Twitter and encourage others to do the same.
posted by dripdripdrop at 12:04 PM on August 20, 2020 [2 favorites]


Do what you can, and trust that others are also working towards the same goal

A key point is that Twitter only seem to respond when multiple people are reporting the same account or the same tweet, so to be effective I think you need to band together with others and report the same things.
The hashtag #report seems to be a common meeting ground for doing that.
posted by Lanark at 1:51 PM on August 20, 2020 [2 favorites]


Yeah for a long time another MeFite was regularly working on this and I would get a DM of a list of hateful tweets and would go down the list and report them all. I like to think my blue check mark may have helped somewhat, I do not know. I think it's true that Twitter doesn't, overall, care about Nazis, but I do think that the reporting process can help frustrate or otherwise slow down a lot of bad actors. Feel free to DM me for the MeFite's name, I don't know if he wants to be publicly associated with this or not.
posted by jessamyn at 3:50 PM on August 20, 2020 [1 favorite]


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