Jenny DeMilo

The Twitter Situation

Twitter refuses to uphold their TOS, denies responsibility or accountability to its users and the backlash is brutal. That’s the story in one line but let me delve a little deeper.

Popular blogger and twitter user Ariel Waldman has been harassed. Several online communities/tools/utilities or whatever they would like to call themselves this week are being used to further that harassment. Ariel contacts the powers that be at Twitter and attempts to get them to intervene and uphold their TOS which clearly states.

” You must not abuse, harass, threaten, impersonate or intimidate other Twitter users”

Twitter then cops the fuck out, in a huge way. Ariel blogs about her experience and there is much support. Twitter employees attempt to do some major damage control as this story spreads like wild fire across the blogosphere. They succeed in only making them look more irresponsible. They back peddle and go through a series of excuses. First it appears they say they are afraid to ban the abuser because of lawsuit retribution, then they say they will rewrite their TOS to remove that section because they are not a “community” website but a “utility” website, they then settle on the theory that Ariel wasn’t abused enough to take action and uphold their TOS.

You can read all about this here and here and here and here, its everywhere.

http://arielwaldman.com/2008/05/22/twitter-refuses-to-uphold-terms-of-service/
http://getsatisfaction.com/twitter/topics/twitter_refuses_to_uphold_terms_of_service
http://news.cnet.com/8301-13577_3-9951197-36.html
http://www.zeldman.com/2008/05/22/a-tweet-too-far/
http://blog.wired.com/business/2008/05/tweeter-takes-o.html
http://www.briansolis.com/2008/05/twitter-vs-ariel-waldman-when-tos.html
http://blog.twitter.com/2008/05/our-terms.html

Why am i writing about this social network site I’m not a part of nor have any desire to use? because it draws an interesting parallel to a small local provider/hobbyist community site based in OC and LA. They too refused to uphold their TOS when i was harassed by a member(s). I will not be naming them because i refuse to give them any publicity but those in the know …. KNOW who they are.

My harassment was 10 fold to what Ariel describes, i was called a “cunt” on so many occasions i cant keep count, i was accused of all manor of felonies and was chased around their “message board” in an attempt to ruin my reputation and in the escort biz your rep is pretty important. When i reached out to the administration i was denied help. I was told that banning abusive members was “too time consuming” or “futile” because the offending member would just “make a new account” that i should acquire a thicker skin, ignore the constant attacks or to leave the board. They passed the buck and told me to contact my local PD but took no action themselves. After the harassment reached the point where my real name was posted in their site, my personal information investigated and passed around though their system and links to my real life posted, I asked a high level administrator face to face what had to happen before they would take action and i got brushed off and shrugged off with the same “its futile” answer. I also came to know that while much of this harassment was going on one of the administrators of the site was involved. When i would write the anonymous “admin” account asking for intervention that often the one doing the harassing was the administrator i was contacting. That administrator was eventually removed because of an incident with another user who happened to be male and a lawyer. I suppose he was taken more seriously then me.

Eventually i opted to not participate on that site any longer because i felt my personal safety was compromised some really crazy things were going on, things i contacted my local PD about. Threats of kidnapping were the scariest. Outing of my personal information and the harassment i suffered on a daily basis really made it not worth it. I thought id take the out of sight out of mind approach. It continued without my presence on the board and does to this day. To date and to my knowledge no one has been censured, chastised reprimanded or admonished in any way for this behavior.

Recently the same site made a move at reinvention they now officially call themselves a “social networking site” my belief is they are trying to shield themselves from liability from running a prostitution message board. They now have a way to collect money to run the site and have a “community moderation” feature where you can delete members or silence them if enough of the community agree on the action. However that “feature” doesn’t not abate them from responsibility or accountability to their users as they would like members to believe. This particular site has degenerated into a huge cluterfuck of nastiness. All it is, is people being abusive to each other, its painful to read.

There are situations where the administration will intervene and delete messages, silence members or delete accounts. There are 3 unspoken rules, they are listed no where on their site you’re expected to “just know them” if you discuss law enforcement, drug usage, or that you have met other members of the site at a social function your posts mysteriously disappear. However on that site you are free to board stalk, demean, insult and harass other members with no recourse.

Its much more extreme then the Twitter situation but it boils down to the same core issue… Social Networking sites and their responsibility to their users. Some seem to want to not be responsible at all, they make excuses and don’t step up to the plate. Harassment on the Internet is a serious issue and it seems to touch a lot of peoples lives. If you create a service/site/communications tool I submit you DO have a responsibility to your users. If you chose to turn a blind eye because it’s too hard of an issue to deal with then you end up with what happened to this local prostitution site i was a member of….. it degenerates into crap, loses its usefulness and people no longer want to be associated with it.

So i again ask the question…what has to happen before this kind of online harassment is taken seriously? Does someone have to die for some of these new social networking sites to address this issue and to be responsible to their membership? They rely on the “its futile” “its only the Internet” “were the messenger” arguments to shield themselves from responsibility but will that really shield them when some thing tragic happens?

I hardly think so and i for one sure hope it never gets to that point but i like others see the writing on the wall.

4 thoughts on “The Twitter Situation

  1. The Flash

    There are businesses that exist to send legal notices to various online web sites to remove negative content about you, and to scare various other websites into behaving. This was big in legal circles recently, but anyone can use the businesses. See this article: http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB118169502070033315-LZGtzXoKWHjRpzFbO7nJJGG671M_20080612.html?mod=rss_free

    Of course it sucks that you have to pay, but if it gets to a critical point, just know that you have options. And they do sue– look at the law suits surrounding autoadmit.com, an online message board that doesn’t track Ip addresses. Two girls claim that their legal careers were ruined by slander that was posted there, because all their potential employers googled them and found the info.

  2. Sarah Blake

    I know what its like to be stalked. I even had a jerk in my back yard at one point, looking in my window.

    I’m sorry you have had to deal with that. It seems anymore it comes with the job, but shouldn’t.

    Too many people like to hide behind their screen names while they spew crap at everyone else. Most have mental problems that harass others and way too much time on their hands.

  3. Slutty McWhore

    Wow, I can’t believe that they actually posted your personal information online! That is quite simply outrageous. I don’t understand why the perpetrators were allowed to get off with such a thing, as it’s hardly good business to permit this. If any other providers saw it, they would surely run a mile.

    I hope that you never have to go through this again.

  4. Jenny DeMilo

    @the flash: that’s an great info, thank you!. I suspect with more and more “social networks” popping up in the web 2.0 world, that they will keep companies like the one on the article in business, thanks again!!

    @Sarah: You’re spot on, most seem to have mental issues.. sorry to hear you’ve had this kind of craziness touch your life too

    @Slutty: Its because the people in a position to lead and set an example don’t. when they can take action, they make excuses instead and usually their unwillingness to deal with these kinds of issues is interpreted by others as silent approval and the situations get worse not better.