I am the whitest white boy imaginable. A really pasty fuck. My head is like a gigantic ball of cotton. When I hiccup, tiny marshmallows fall out of my mouth. And I’m male and straight and check off every other mainstream box America’s got.
That doesn’t stop Twitter Nazis from sometimes assailing me with hate speech, throwing the n-word in my direction to bait me. I block and report them, but even if they lose their account, they can instantly and anonymously start a hundred more.
Why would I want to spend time batting away evil sociopaths when I can be speaking to nice people or reading a book or exercising? And if my Caucasian, male self is on the receiving end of such nastiness, imagine how those who identify differently are pursued by these bigoted trolls.
That’s sad because I’ve also used Twitter to communicate with lots of bright folks I never would have met and to recommend really smart pieces of journalism. Still, like most non-insane people who use the social-media service, I think every day about deactivating my account. I’m sure I eventually will.
In an excellent Guardian piece, Lindy West explains she didn’t deactivate because of “trolls, robots and dictators” but due to Twitter’s negligence in countering them. It’s an oversight, the writer believes, that allowed for the “perfecting” of mass hatred. An excerpt:
I hate to disappoint anyone, but the breaking point for me wasn’t the trolls themselves (if I have learned anything from the dark side of Twitter, it is how to feel nothing when a frog calls you a cunt) – it was the global repercussions of Twitter’s refusal to stop them. The white supremacist, anti-feminist, isolationist, transphobic “alt-right” movement has been beta-testing its propaganda and intimidation machine on marginalised Twitter communities for years now – how much hate speech will bystanders ignore? When will Twitter intervene and start protecting its users? – and discovered, to its leering delight, that the limit did not exist. No one cared. Twitter abuse was a grand-scale normalisation project, disseminating libel and disinformation, muddying long-held cultural givens such as “racism is bad” and “sexual assault is bad” and “lying is bad” and “authoritarianism is bad”, and ultimately greasing the wheels for Donald Trump’s ascendance to the US presidency. Twitter executives did nothing.
On 29 December, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted: “What’s the most important thing you want to see Twitter improve or create in 2017?” One user responded: “Comprehensive plan for getting rid of the Nazis.”
“We’ve been working on our policies and controls,” Dorsey replied. “What’s the next most critical thing?” Oh, what’s our second-highest priority after Nazis? I’d say No 2 is also Nazis. And No 3. In fact, you can just go ahead and slide “Nazis” into the top 100 spots. Get back to me when your website isn’t a roiling rat-king of Nazis. Nazis are bad, you see?•