I left Twitter last year for a very personal and specific reason. That reason? They refuse to protect anyone.
There remains a number of humans on Twitter who delight in harassing, blasting, humiliating (trying …), and vilifying me. One of whom was actually (briefly) banned. And it was rough enough before the new regime, who has made things objectively worse. Not a little worse, a lot worse.
I went over to Mastodon and I have no regrets. It’s much nicer, even though there are some flaws (spam at the moment, but also some gatekeeping and racism that needs to stop). For example, on Sunday recently, I posted how I don’t believe in AI. I am my father’s daughter, after all, and there is nothing intelligent about what we’ve created, save in our own. The machine does not think, it does not innovate, it keeps to what it knows.
On Mastodon? That got a lot of nuanced conversations. On Twitter I had to be handy with the block button.
Now no social media is “great” for the soul, but Twitter has been doing a dumb ass speed run and hurting as many people as possible.
On April 8th, Twitter removed the language in its hateful conduct policy that explicitly protected transgender people from online harassment.
Prior to the rule change, Twitter’s Hateful Content Policy stated:
We prohibit targeting others 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. In some cases, such as (but not limited to) severe, repetitive usage of slurs, or racist/sexist tropes where the context is to harass or intimidate others, we may require Tweet removal. In other cases, such as (but not limited to) moderate, isolated usage where the context is to harass or intimidate others, we may limit Tweet visibility as further described below.
It now is:
We prohibit targeting others with repeated slurs, tropes or other content that intends to degrade or reinforce negative or harmful stereotypes about a protected category. In some cases, such as (but not limited to) severe, repetitive usage of slurs, or racist/sexist tropes where the context is to harass or intimidate others, we may require Tweet removal. In other cases, such as (but not limited to) moderate, isolated usage where the context is to harass or intimidate others, we may limit Tweet visibility as further described below.
They removed a key number of words.
This removal of stated protections happens at the same time Florida is banning drag shows, health care for trans youths, and more.
Be Judged By Your Actions
This is a technical sort of blog, I know. But this overlaps into that, so hold on a second.
People will judge you by your actions. If you treat people like dirt, you will be seen as an asshole. If you’re Jewish, you’re likely familiar with the saying similar to “If someone sits down at a table with 11 Nazis, and doesn’t leave, you now have 12 Nazis.”
The point being, your action of giving money to someone’s company when you are aware of their transphobic, homophobic, antisemitic, hate-filled actions, we are all going to look at you like you’re an asshole too. And when you allow those people in your community, you’re saying “I’m okay with these people who dehumanize others.”
Now, how does this relate to tech, besides Twitter being a tech company?
Take a LONG hard look at Twitter right now. See how many people are being unmitigated assholes to the users, and see that nothing is being done to stop it. Got that image in your head?
Awesome. Now. What are YOU doing to stop it in YOUR products?
I talk about how tech is open to being abused so much because, thus far, we have done very little to actually protect anyone. I mean, you tell me how you can block someone who could spin up a hundred accounts in minutes, just to email you and be a jerk? There are, of course, somethings you cannot stop but think about it this way…
If someone came to your home to harass you, there are resources (cops, for example). It someone’s harassing you on Twitter, you go to Twitter support, right? They do nothing, which means they have a product and they don’t care about you. Hell, Twitter will tell you that someone telling you to that you deserve to suffer is fine, but will ban you for telling them to jump in a volcano, because you made a death threat.
Not a joke. Happened to a friend.
There aren’t laws that properly cover online abuse. They’re aren’t. Don’t get me started. But that means the responsibility is on US, the creators of the tools. I’ve said it a million times, if you make a forms plugin and do not take time to figure out ways to allow people to protect themselves, you failed. Look at how much custom code I’ve had to make just to get people to leave me alone!
If your code won’t protect me, I won’t use it because it’s not safe. And when you side with people who categorically make things unsafe, well, now I don’t trust you.
Stand By What You Believe In
Someone’s probably going to ask me how far I go with this. I’ll put it this way. If, tomorrow, Musk ‘bought out’ WordPress, I would quit my job and start over with anything else. And I’d have to think about what to do with my websites.
At the same time, if you’re still using Twitter as a non-paying user? That’s your call and I won’t think ill of you for it. There absolutely are some communities that only exist on Twitter, and moving them is a pain in the ass. I feel this way about Facebook, I hate it and I hate how it treats people, but I understand it’s a necessary evil. I wish it was easier to move everyone elsewhere, but not all products are built like WordPress.
That’s the nice thing, I think. If, tomorrow, I had to quit WP, I really do have options! I can export and migrate! Because WordPress lets you own your data. But that’s another post.
And contrary to what some people may think, I am absolutely in support of paying for social media! I donated to my Mastodon host (I just switched so I have to set things back up again) because a couple bucks a month for enjoyment is something I can afford.
I’m opposed to PAYING to be treated like a second or third class human, and I absolutely judge you when you do pay them.
Listen and Protect
Here’s my advice and it starts with a story.
Back in 2010 or so, there was a courthouse in Franklin County Ohio that had a glass staircase.
Why is that a problem?
Go put on a skirt while I stand underneath and tell you what color your underpants are (if you wear them).
That’s a damned obvious problem to anyone who regularly wears skirts and dresses. Why didn’t the courthouse think of that? Men probably designed it and didn’t ask or didn’t listen until the Judge saw it and got pissed off.
In order to make things safe, you have to listen to people. If a skirt-wearing human comes up and says “Hey, this is bad, people can see my panties” you shouldn’t do what the Courthouse did. They had a guard there to warn women, which is not a solution, and said they’d hope people would be mature … That is not listening, and it sure isn’t protecting.
What they could have done is change the underside of the glass to reflect, or put a film on, or cordon it off so people can’t stand underneath. But instead they went “meh.”
If you go ‘meh’, you’re the problem folks. You didn’t listen, and when the opportunity arose, you didn’t help.
So. Listen. Think about what it means to someone else. Have empathy. And then code with that empathy.
And spend your bucks with that empathy too, by the way.