This post is going to be short and sweet. Unlike my last (perhaps unfortunate) post I'm not going to name names, or let emotion take over ... simply discuss something that happened here recently in London, Ontario. To be clear, this post will only be completely relevant to those with previous knowledge of the situation - but I do hope it offers something to those of you that have found your way here in error or at random. I offer little to the discussion, I simply have a need at the moment to 'type this shit out'. Perhaps I'll start slowly, and carefully, with a simple definition. I've used a few sources to try to pull together one without political bias and while a little rough, I believe it gives a general idea of what I'm talking about.
#twittergulag: When a twitter account is suspended due to others issuing block and report of spam reports.
(Plenty of accounts this does actually apply to - the suggestion here is that is done unfairly to silence people who have opinions that differ from the ones issuing the reports.)
Awkward to read perhaps, but I hope it gives a general idea of what I'm talking about. If someone says stuff you do not like, or even in a way you do not like, you can block this person and/or report their tweets as spam. If enough people do this ... *poof* ... the account is gone, either temporarily or permanently. This is 100% within twitter's terms of service and of course, twitter is certainly entitled to block any account they want - it IS a private service after all. So what's the problem?
Well, what if I told you that the “block and report for spam feature” is completely automated? There is not a human sitting at the other end to review the reports, there’s just a computer, and like any machine, it can be fooled. The content of the tweet is actually not important. It may not be spam, it may not be abusive. Completely irrelevant. The account will in fact be suspended and the user must in turn do some work to have the account reinstated. It takes effort. As a result, it might be assumed that the person who finds themselves constantly getting suspended may either change their tune or just give up trying altogether.
I feel strongly about this issue, although to be honest I wish I didn't. A number of people I like and respect locally feel much differently then I do - and well, that's a shame. Someone earlier tonight that I admire very much told me I was misguided to think this is a 'freedom of speech' issue, but for the like of me I cannot seem to figure out how it isn't. Sure, its a private site and the supreme court won't be ruling on it anytime soon - but at the end of the day it is about silencing others because we don't like what they say or how they say it. No one will ever know for sure why this account was banned - so this whole discussion may in fact be for naught. To make matters worse, the person it happened to locally (more than once) has been banned from many sites and has a history of saying mean and hurtful things. Some I've even seen myself. So why can't I just throw her under the bus? Be happy that twitter will likely be better off without her? I just ... well, I just can't. Hell, I can't even block or unfollow her! Heaven help me - I almost even starting to see her as a human being. I've had a couple of people who have met her in person assure me that she has no green skins, or horns - nothing! Truth is, it doesn't matter. I was against the suspensions when she was just an avatar that spewed hateful and on occasion hurtful comments and nothing has changed.
To be clear, I do NOT condone what she says -- only her right to say it. I encourage others to unfollow and block her to be sure - but I'm going to sit tight. For now. There may very well come a time when I will do the same - but never report as spam. Ever. To do so I believe, especially as part of a co-ordinated effort (which I'm not suggesting is the case here) is to partake in the same bullying behaviour that this person is herself is accused of. This is not something I dwell on, in fact - I don't even think about it that often. But I do believe strongly in it. You may think me wrong. Or misguided. Or both. However I'm just as entitled to my opinion as you are to yours. And she is to hers. That my friends in the end is exactly the point.
I think we ought always to entertain our opinions with some measure of doubt. I shouldn't wish people dogmatically to believe any philosophy, not even mine. - Bertrand Russell
Fight for your opinions, but do not believe that they contain the whole truth, or the only truth. - Charles A. Dana
The recipe for perpetual ignorance is: be satisfied with your opinions and content with your knowledge. - Elbert Hubbard
I have opinions of my own -- strong opinions -- but I don't always agree with them. - George Bush
Where there is much desire to learn, there of necessity will be much arguing, much writing, many opinions; for opinions in good men is but knowledge in the making. - John Milton
Every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. - Thomas Jefferson