What is Abuse?

Twitter unveiled a new way to try and handle online abuse and trolls sometime last week. Unofficially dubbed “Twitter Time Out,” (TTO) the system punishes accounts Twitter deems to be abusive by limiting their exposure to other accounts for 12 hours. Their own followers can still see their tweets, but to everyone else, it will appear as if they’ve taken a break from the social media service. Their tweets simply won’t be seen by anyone, including anyone mentioned in them.

I know, because it happened to me this weekend. And let me tell you, the experience taught me a lesson; that Twitter still doesn’t know what the fuck it’s doing about curbing abuse and harmful accounts.

If you’re curious as to what I did that led to me getting put in TTO, well, hey, I’m right there with you. When Twitter flags your account and puts you in the corner to think about what you’ve done, they’re incredibly vague about what action put you there. Here’s the warning you get:

My tweets are mostly comprised of the following.

  1. Pictures of Tokyo
  2. Random music snark
  3. Video games
  4. Muppets RTs
  5. Inflammatory and hate-filled political rhetoric

I’m going to assume it was that last one that got me banned, unless someone at Twitter HQ has it out for Gonzo.

Specifically, I’m going to assume that it was a recent exchange I had with James Delingpole. He’s a blogger and writer who contributes to The Sun and Brietbart News. Topics of choice for Delingpole? Mostly that climate change is a scam created by global elites to steal money from the working class and create a new world order…or something. He’s also not a fan of minorities, women, or us gays.

But his hatred of anyone who isn’t a straight white man isn’t what concerns me the most. It’s his climate change “denial.” I put denial in quotes, because I strongly believe that Delingpole knows that climate change is real and a threat to the continued existence of humankind. I just don’t think he gives a fuck because he’s on the payroll of oil companies. In the past, Delingpole has been paid by The Heartland Institute to speak at their events. The Heartland Institute is a right-wing think tank who gets the majority of its funding from energy companies like Exxon. Who knows what other companies are slipping Delingpole some cash in order to sell out humanity?

James Delingpole is evil. Pure and simple. He’s pushing lies to create doubt on climate change action. That doubt will literally kill people, as it delays meaningful action on climate change. When Delingpole pens a piece on how climate change is a scam, he’s selling out the future for a quick buck today. Never mind that everything he’s ever written on the subject has been readily debunked time and time again. The debunkings don’t get the press that the original lies and slander do.

I noticed that his header on Twitter uses a piece of Ralph Steadman art, so I sent out a tweet hoping the artist would say something.

No real response from Delingpole the denier. But he RT’d it so his squad of idiot hateboys would pile on me. Some jumped at the chance.

I told these people that I wanted them to die.

So yeah, I think things like that might’ve gotten me in TTO. And while I’m sure you might think my reply was overly harsh, hateful even, I refuse to apologize for it. I see nothing wrong with what I said. In fact, I think my response is measured and restrained considering the situation.

Here you have people who are denying science at its most basic level, sometimes out of abject stupidity, but more often than not to make a quick buck, and they’re doing it at the expense of human lives. That is not hyperbole. They write what they write and it literally kills people. It literally puts our planet one step closer to a dangerously unstable climate that will kill hundreds of thousands people, if not more.

That is evil. Pure evil. Undeniable evil. An evil rarely seen in this world. Tell me how James Delingpole is any different than a literal killer. Ditto for Anthony Watts or Stephen Milloy, other climate deniers who push lies for money. They’re using Twitter to amplify and false agenda that will murder countless innocent people. According to Twitter, that’s not abuse. However, reacting to “I want you to die so I can get more money,” by saying “no, you die first,” that’s abuse.

You may have found my above tweets offensive, hateful, but it’s fallacious to dismiss my vitriolic replies without additionally condemning the genocidal viewpoint they are in response to.

Online abuse doesn’t just come in the form of bad words and personal attacks. It comes in the form of dishonest viewpoints and dangerous ideas. Not all viewpoints are created equal, and not all viewpoints are deserving of equal time on social media platforms. To anyone out there claiming I’m promoting “wrongthink,” fuck you. Do you want to give a platform to child molesters or serial killers? Probably not. There are some ideas that are objectively wrong. In a just world, paid climate change denial would be one of those things. Climate change denial isn’t an opinion, its a false narrative created by oil companies in order to steal as much money as possible before they make the world collapse.

Similarly, racism is not a viewpoint, it’s a form of violence. Transphobia kills. Homophobia kills. Islamaphobia kills. Sexism kills. But Twitter doesn’t care about that kind of abuse, because those abusers spew their hate with a smile on their face. And no bad words.

Twitter Time Out is an empty gesture that will solve nothing. First of all, it won’t stop anyone who is singling out anyone for abuse. A 12 hour limited restriction is nothing. It’s a slap on the wrist. And if someone is truly dedicated to hurting other people on social media, then they’ll readily set up dummy accounts in order to do so. I know, it’s happened to me.

But more so, it doesn’t stop the originators of the hate, the propagators of deception and bigotry. Richard Spencer drops casual antisemitism and spreads conspiracy theories that put real people in real danger. But he doesn’t say any bad words or target individuals, so he’s not a threat according to Twitter. Stephen Milloy is literally paid by oil and tobacco companies to spread lies that kill people (that is not an exaggeration, it is a proven fact). But hey, he doesn’t tell anyone to fuck off, so that’s cool with Twitter too. The President of the United States uses two accounts to launch a dictatorial attack against the media, but he didn’t insult them with bad words, so I guess that’s hunky dory also.

Twitter Time Out didn’t teach me to be more respectful or be “less abusive.” It just taught me that Twitter knows as much about stopping online abuse, and what abusive behavior actually is, as it does about making money.

Which is to say it knows nothing at all.

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