Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Twitter, report tweet button and trans phobia

So twitter has finally caved in and is adding a report tweet function to android and the web (why this was rolled out on iPad first I have no idea). This is in response to Caroline Criado-Perez's hoard of harasser that sparked a petition on Change.org to ask twitter to ya know... Make it so people can report rape threats like the ones Criado-Perez was getting. I am not going to hold my breath about how long it will take for this function to be implemented but at least they have said they will.

So why am I posting? Apart from going yay Caroline for successfully campaigning to keep women on the British pound Ophelia Benson's blog posts over at FtB have made me ponder another issue with this. Well, the comments on this made me think. 

Will this report button be used to promote anti-trans action? 
The first comment from jade hawk:
"I agree that twitter needs an easier way to report threats of violence, but I agree with the many trans people and women of color on twitter who have points out that an "abuse" button will be used by e.g. TERFs to kick their critics off twitter, in effect becoming more marginalizing than empowering. Many of them already get silenced by abuse of the spam reporting button. Unlike YouTube, twitter is largely real-time, so having your tweets restored after a day or two, when its disappeared from everyone's feed, protects the abusers of the reporting system... And this... Is why the community of minority women on twitter has been reacting very negatively to many of the suggestions made by white cis feminists on how to make twitter safer: because they experience many of these actions as being thrown under the bus, since they're expressed in these wide-sweeping terms."

"Thank you jade hawk, those are my concerns too, I know a number of trans women whose accounts would have been deleted for abuse because they stood up to trans-misogynists online.
Too often the cure for abuse just makes it worse."

Ophelia responded:
"Why are those concerns more important than the concerns of women who do want a way to report abuse?" 

"Who said they are more important?
The point is that they should not be less important"

I can't help but think that the concerns voiced are valid. Silencing via false reports of abuse is a common tactic against trans people and WoC. It's an issue that I've found is rarely discussed outside of these two groups and something that cis and white people don't recognize far too often. Abuse reporting mechanisms are often used to silence - especially when I report of abuse ends up with the post or comment being removed immediately until the reported abuse can be confirmed. This, as jade hawk says, is a way to remove that person from the conversation in a complete and immediate manner. It's a concern that needs to be addressed that I don't have a good answer to.

However, not implementing an abuse reporting system isn't the way to fix the problem. I signed the petition to ask twitter to put the button on the web and android platforms because I think that we also Ned a way to report people that are abusing others on twitter. I've gotten my fair share of harassment on the site and I know others have had it worse than I. Look at Criado-Perez's situation - receiving 50+ rape threats per day with no on site recourse. Look at the situation that happened with mabus, death threats and harassment over years. Both of these situations ended up with police involvement. We can see there is a real problem here. 

Will a report abuse button deter such voracious attackers? No. But it will help with the smaller attacks and may help with a reporting paper trail for larger cases. Someone who is abusing others via social network shouldn't be allowed to continue and blocking or spam reporting doesn't cut it. Blocking just forces the abuser to target the victims friends and colleagues or for others to retweet or post their own vitriol and so long as the person isn't saying the same thing of and over spam reporting isn't exactly effective. Beside, it isn't spam - it's harassment. 

What can we do for trans people and WoC though? A possibility that comes to mind is to have the reported tweet removed from the reporters feed but not the overall conversation, and prevent it from being retweeted until such time as the case has been reviewed. Ideally we would have a quick view system in place too - like under 24hr not days. This would make it so the person doing the reporting has some protection, the case would be reviewed and in the event of a false report to silence the conversation can still go on. Another addition might be to impose a mute on someone with multiple abuse reports, or to have a twitter restraining order in place while the report is being looked at. These still have issues but I am just brainstorming here. I wish I had better answers but abuse and harassment need to be able to be reported, it's important and trans people and WoC could also use it to report their abusers. Like any system set up on a social network though it can be abused and it's hard to have an effective, non-problematic system implemented. 

Any thoughts on a way for abuse reporting that doesn't silence people who are being falsely reported while still protecting victims of harassment and threats? 

1 comment:

  1. It is certainly a tough issue. On the one hand you want it simple, easy, and quick to report valid abuse. On the other hand you don't want it the same to be abusive to others on a whim or some such.

    I like your idea of the one who reports the other not seeing the one they reported. I tend not to report and just ignore the taunts because I want to know how far they escalate to, so I know whether to involve the authorities. Everyone has a different comfort level with that though.