Two Sides Of Twitter: Dumb And Dumber

Wall Street Journal drama critic Terry Teachout had his twitter account hacked. When he informed twitter, their response was so very, very twitter.

UPDATE: I received this message from Twitter Support late last night:

We’ve investigated the reported account and have determined that it is not in violation of Twitter’s impersonation policy. In order for an account to be in violation…it must portray another person…in a misleading or deceptive manner.

So that’s how Twitter Support responds when my verified account is hacked, obscene and racist messages are posted on it, and a ransom request is made to me by telephone. Is it any wonder that more and more people are getting fed up with Twitter?

As with so many entities in the digital age, there’s no one to speak with, to talk to, to reason with. In fairness, twitter users aren’t the customers, but the product, so there’s no particular reason why they should either care or put in the effort or money to create a “customer” service system for users. You don’t like how they treat you? Go elsewhere. Seeya.

So Teachout’s account was hacked, and there were a handful of fairly straightforwards ways to address it. Take back the account from the hacker, change the password, delete the offending “obscene and racist” twits and life goes on. Or delete the old account altogether, maybe even put a notice on it that there’s a new legit account for Teachout. But nope. According to twitter’s response, there was no terms of service violation, so too bad, so sad, but there’s nothing to be done.

Yet, twitter isn’t entirely unresponsive to problems.

In September, Twitter announced changes to its “hateful conduct” policy, violations of which can get users temporarily or permanently barred from the site. The updates, an entry on Twitter’s blog explained, would expand its existing rules “to include content that dehumanizes others based on their membership in an identifiable group, even when the material does not include a direct target.” A little more than a month later, the company quietly rolled out the update, expanding the conduct page from 374 to 1,226 words, which went largely unnoticed until this past week.

To recap, twitter can’t manage to accommodate a hacked account, but wants to police “hateful conduct.” Hey, it’s a private corporation and can say and do whatever it pleases. Of course, we all have our own views on what constitutes “hate,” which the unduly passionate keep explaining on twitter isn’t protected by the First Amendment. But the First Amendment doesn’t apply to twitter anyway, so even if it did they could ignore it.

But this “hateful conduct” has gone off in a curious direction.

While much of the basic framework stayed the same, the latest version leaves much less up for interpretation. Its ban on “repeated and/or non-consensual slurs, epithets, racist and sexist tropes, or other content that degrades someone” was expanded to read: “We prohibit targeting individuals with repeated slurs, tropes or other content that intends to dehumanize, degrade or reinforce negative or harmful stereotypes about a protected category. This includes targeted misgendering or deadnaming of transgender individuals.” (Emphasis added.)

For the unwoke, “deadnaming” means using the original given name for a trans individual rather than their chosen name. If Bruce is now Caitlyn, then you would be violating the rules against hateful conduct by calling “her” Bruce rather than Caitlyn. While most people would chalk up using a preferred name as a matter of courtesy, since what do you care what someone wants to call herself, it could present some issues that aren’t necessarily related to hatefulness.

First, what if Caitlyn wants to discuss her journey? Will whoever, or whatever, is imposing the rules banish first and respond as mindlessly as he, or it, did to Terry Teachout? Second, does this mean there can be no discussion on twitter of any issues concerning trans folks, or at least not without significant risk of banishment should someone inadvertently use the wrong word?

When raising these questions, the facile response from the unduly passionate is that such institutionalized political correctness is merely a matter of common courtesy. Of course, it’s their flavor of courtesy, whether you agree or not. But even that isn’t true. Courtesy is something polite people choose to do, not something that’s done to avoid punishment.

But twitter, as a private entity, is entitled to pick its politics and enforce them as it pleases. Since we don’t pay for the pleasure of participating, there’s not even financial harm to be suffered should they manage their rules poorly. Fail to address a problem? So what? Impose punishment? So what? You can handcuff yourself to twitter’s front door, but that hasn’t proven effective.

When twitter first erupted on the scene, I wrote that I would not use it. That was ten years ago. Time proved me a liar. It was a different beast in the early days than it is now. There are flashes of brilliant and extraordinary wit, but it’s mostly insipid children demonstrating what insipid children used to conceal. There are gifs and emojis, the millennial substitutes for words and thought. There is witless snark. There is anger and hatred, but not of the sort that would offend the twitter gods. But they still can’t figure out that there’s a problem when someone hacks and steals a twitter account and fix a concrete problem.

Social media has become the “village square” of the digital age. but it remains in private hands and we, the users, may be the speakers atop the soapboxes but corporations are selling tickets to watch us, to sell to us. You can steal someone else’s soapbox, and it won’t bother the twitters as long as you don’t misgender them in the process. It may be time for this oldster to wind down on twitter. I could handle a bit of dumb, but I don’t really want to enable dumber.

23 thoughts on “Two Sides Of Twitter: Dumb And Dumber

  1. Jake

    A very merry Jordan Peterson parrot post wrapped in a curmudgeonly complaint about Twitter. Somebody’s got a case of the Mondays!

    Reply
      1. Jake

        Neither admiration nor agreement is prerequisite for understanding emerging cultural phenomena. They are also not a guaranteed outcome. You should try stepping out of the echo chamber once in a while.

        Reply
          1. Jake

            OK, well in that case: be careful. Jordan Peterson is a faux intellectual asshat who’s biggest talent is his ability to sustain a public temper tantrum in a traveling astroturf circus but you and he share many, many points of view. I wouldn’t want you to get, you know, lumped in with the ‘intellectual dark web’.

            Reply
            1. SHG Post author

              So Peterson is the entire “intellectual dark web”? I bet there are some folks who will be relieved to learn that.

  2. Jeffrey Gamso

    Scott,

    With age (and I’ve always been, and remain, older than you, you young whippersnapper) comes wisdom. I’ve never been on twitter, never even considered it.

    Glad to see you’re finally of an age where you’re catching on.

    Tannebaum (who I suspect is even younger than you, but in this wise beyond his years) told me (I think you were there and should have listened) that I was smart and should stay off.

    Reply
    1. SHG Post author

      Ironically, just yesterday I was informed by some much younger lawyers how old lawyers possess no wisdom and don’t appreciate the young or their ways. Or perhaps it wasn’t all older lawyers, but just me. It’s very hard to know what they’re talking about as they’re not particularly good at expressing thoughts.

      Tannebaum, who is much younger than me, was very active on the twitters, despite his validation of your decision. Maybe he appreciated that twitter isn’t a good medium for us old lawyers, since we’re not up to snuff on dank memes, emojis and gifs.

      Reply
          1. OtherJay

            Your only other option is .xif, but you aren’t allowed to ask whether it identifies as a Jiffy gif or a Giffy gif.

            You also have to acknowledge it’s lived experience and take that into consideration.

            See how hard it is being woke?

            Reply
  3. Pedantic Grammar Police

    ” we all have our own views on what constitutes “hate,””

    Using “it’s” when you mean “its” is hate speech! All good citizens must fight this evil wherever it appears.

    Reply
  4. B. McLeod

    Twitter is just joining the wider world of wokieness, where you can’t talk about [Ed. Notes] at all unless you use word forms approved by the “activists” who presume to speak for all [Ed. Notes] everywhere. It is irrelevant what the [Ed. Notes] want or think, because the “activists” are driving the bus. So of course, it follows exactly as you suggest that the [Ed. Notes] themselves are also prohibited from using unapproved words or referring to themselves by their former names.

    Reply

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